Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Morning Rounds

In the morning....
...... breakfast at the outside table overlooking Mt Karioi
...... while Spike has his drink of water from the boat which will, soon, I hope, become my peppermint garden.

After breakfast I take my daily walk to feed the ducks and chooks. On a sunny, early summer morning it is beautiful, almost enough to make me forget my very wet, miserable, head-down-and-run November.

This year we have a reasonable number of plums on the trees,
but not many apples, and no pears at all on any of our three trees.
In the chook run there are Cape Gooseberries (and yes, that is blackberry creeping in there, but I try to keep it down)
and figs
and two avocado trees, that grew from scraps thrown to the cooks before I knew they were poisonous. They are gorgeous trees, and the chooks prefer to perch in them at night rather than use their chook palace, but no fruit yet. This year they were covered in flowers, so maybe we will get fruit set next year, or the year after, or....
The hareheke is finally flowering - later than usual - and the tui have been visiting for the nectar.
The grape vine is flowering, and the chooks seem to have forgotten that they love to eat the young leaves, so it's looking prettier than usual.
The run looks like a hippy jungle, but it keeps the kahu from stealing the eggs from a couple of nesting spots.
The boysenberries are running wild: we don't get many as the chooks and other birds are happy to eat them long before they are ripe enough for my taste.
I love the wild carrot, and they are always covered in pollinators. I notice bees collecting grass pollen too.
There's plantain everywhere, and I love that too - so pretty, and instantly relieving when a crushed leaf is rubbed on an insect bite.
My favourite chook, Chicky, who always comes for a pat, and to peck at my feet. She became tame when she lived outside the back door when she was sick, and now, if ever she gets out of the run she heads straight up to Bob's kennel to see her best friend.
Still small and pretty ratty, the sugar cane I planted 4 years ago has survived frost and drought, and maybe one day we'll get to taste the sweetness.
The nashi trees are not as ridiculously covered in fruit this year, so maybe we'll get some of a decent size this time round.
The scented geranium are supposed to deter codlin moth: I don't know if it's that, but we have never had any bugs in our fruit.
 It doesn't deter one of the chooks, which has made a nest in it.
 At the moment, once I've collected eggs from three outside nests, plus the nesting boxes, I'm getting 12-13 eggs a day from fifteen chooks. The older ladies don't lay daily, but they live out their natural lifespans, as I figure they have given service and deserve it.
 Nastursiums go crazy, and as well as being a visual delight, are tasty in salads, both leaves and flowers.
 It's looking like we will have a good feijoa crop this year.
 The elderflowers are blooming, but I have to be very careful not to pick wild carrot flowers by mistake!
 I love elderflower cordial but with diabetes I thought that treat was gone for me. However, I have soaked them, along with a lemon, and frozen the strained liquid in ice cubes. A couple of cubes in a glass with a couple of drops of stevia liquid, and sparkling water from the Sodastream has proved rather nice.
 The manuka flowers aren't food for us directly, but make healthy honey, and are just such delightful little flowers.
 A quick water of more work needing to be done,
 watched by Bob
 and Spike, waiting for me to come inside for a cup of tea and a cuddle.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

See Flowers Not Weeds

I love Rachel Macy Stafford's blog, which tells me so much I should know. I bought two of her bracelets and wear them all the time to remind me.
One says, 'see flowers not weeds'. It's a message I need a constant reminder of, as I tend, not just to see the negative things in life, but almost actively seek them out: if you expect the bad in life, you won't be disappointed.
 I have always thought of myself as a pessimist, but I think I must actually be a closet optimist, because I am perpetually disappointed, no matter how much I prepare for the worst.
 Lately I have been trying hard to see the good side of things, and the positive possibilities.
 I'm finding I am disappointed far less often, even though the bad things still happen, because I see the good things in the foreground.
Sixteen years ago, when we moved to our paradise in the country, I fell in love with the 'weeds' - the flowers and grasses that surrounded us, and which I picked and brought inside because I had no garden. I still have no flower gardens, and still love the wild plants, especially the wild carrot. However, there are still a few weeds I remove, even when their flowers are beautiful, such as the thistles.
 I learned to literally 'see flowers not weeds', but it's taken me a lot longer to apply the words as a metaphor to my life.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

on the road

driving on the motorway
surrounded by
cars, vans, trucks
campers, buses

who are they?
where are they going?
where have they been?

beside the road
hay paddocks, long grass
iridescent in the sun
stroked by the wind
like crushed velvet
come alive

driving on the motorway
music filling my space
with different times
places people

who am i?
where am i going?
where have i been?

in this glass and metal bubble
the possibilities seem

i can be anyone
going anywhere

Monday, November 7, 2016

Climate Change and (in)Human Nature

A few people have shared a documentary, Before the Flood, in which Leonardo DiCaprio explores the topic of climate change, and what needs to be done today to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on earth. Because they are people who matter to me, I watched it. To me it was was nothing new. I knew it all - maybe not in exact detail, but certainly there is nothing there to surprise, nothing to make me gasp with sudden insight.

Or perhaps there was. I realised that for someone who knew it all, I have taken shockingly little action.

I remember when I was at university (1969 - 1973) I read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and had that sudden shock reaction which changed my attitude to food and food production. I remember reading Vance Packard's The Waste Makers which told of planned obsolescence in manufacturing, and the sudden shock of that led me to buy the best quality products I could afford. I marched in the streets of Hamilton against French nuclear testing at Mururoa and against the Vietnam War. I was full of ideals and enthusiasm. I read about living differently - communities, communes, hippy back to the land, The Farm but I was always holding back, always scared of going 'too far'.

Then Mac and I headed off for a year and a half of Kiwi OE, to Britain and Europe. It was mainly fun and exploring a different part of the world, but occasionally there were sobering reminders of human destruction and cruelty: mile upon mile of crosses marking war graves in France; the concentration camp at Dachau, near Munich; IRA bomb threats in London; a visit to Scotland where some of my cottage weaver ancestors were made homeless and jobless by the industrial revolution and thus made the move all the way to New Zealand. But the fun times dulled the shocks.

Home in New Zealand I took more interest in healthy food, organic gardening, making my own clothes again. But then we behaved like good little Kiwis, and instead of joining a commune, we bought a house in suburbia and settled down, making concrete paths, including one leading to the Hills Hoist clothesline. We made vegetable gardens, and had babies, and though I did become a little alternative by moving to using various alternative therapies when ordinary medicine failed, and by homebirthing and homeschooling, I somehow drifted into living a pretty ordinary suburban life.

While at university I had also marched against Springbok tours, but in 1981 I did not march. I still believed, more than ever, that South Africa's apartheid was wrong, but could not bring myself to risk being arrested when I had a three month old, breast-fed baby. Or was that just a coward's excuse? I truly don't know still.

And so I leaned further and further into conformity and its comfort. I can say I use as little plastic as possible, grow as much of my own food as possible, make as many of my own clothes as possible, live as simply as possible and so on. But it isn't true.I could do so much more. I don't work in the garden in all weather, as subsistence farmers do. I have way more clothes than I need, most still bought, most still made overseas probably by slave, or near slave, labour.

Our home is huge, our sons grown and gone. Each bedroom is as big or bigger than a refugee camp tent, and there are New Zealanders, Raglan people, homeless, but here we are living, just the two of us, in a four bedroom house, surrounded by unused land that could be producing way more food. The part of me that knows these things is not strong enough. I can't even bring myself to take in WWOOFers to help us on our land. I'm so entrenched in the first world luxury of being able to indulge my introversion, my depression, my difficulties in understanding others, my fear of both attachment and rejection, and my personal comfort. I would be happy to share my home with any of my sons, but even that would be difficult. The local council rules are such that we could build a small 'granny flat' so that one of my sons could take over the big house, but I'm not ready to give up my big kitchen and pantry. I'm a typical selfish baby boomer, one of the ones who have been destroying this world with our burning of fossil fuels, plastic waste, plastic values.

I've been reflecting since I watched that documentary. I have four sons. FOUR sons! When I was at university we talked of zero population growth, and my contribution was going to be having no children. So much for good intentions! I gave in to the base animal instinct to procreate. I am so happy to have my sons in my life, but can't help but wonder when I conveniently 'forgot' my principles. Is it human nature to push to the back the difficult decisions, the painful actions, or is it just me? Or is it most of us, with just the special few leading the way, trying to drag the rest of us along, screaming and shouting and denying? Will my young friends who are aware of the realities of climate change retain their sense of urgency to change the world, or will they too gradually slip into the mediocrity of old age? I hope this new generation is stronger than me and mine.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fucked in the Head

So what if you spend your life being fucked in the head, fucking with other people's heads, being self-centred and self-obsessed, and trying to peel back the layers of mental illness, and then you discover that there is no centre, that you are empty, that there really is nothing of value in the 'real' you? Yeah, I know, if there's no you, who is the you that is thinking this? And yeah, I know, this will pass and things will get better again. But fuck, it's a dreary existence, and I'm so sad and sorry for all the misery I bring, not just to me, but to everyone else as well. I thought I was reaching a point where I might stop needing a therapist, but he's away for a week, and I've spent so much time this week, just feeling unutterably sad, and crying over everything. But there's the tax returns to file, and the driver's licence to renew, and dog food and toilet paper to buy, so I guess I will have to stuff my misery into my back pocket and get on with it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Quiet of the Country

So quiet.
Almost too quiet.

I walk, listening to the silence.

Shoes crunch on gravel.

Dog barks, keen to follow the roar of the farmer's bike.

Down the driveway
the sounds of myna birds
wax eyes
a pheasant whirring up through the undergrowth
piwakawaka joyfully following
collecting insects
stirred up by my steps

Further along, the bird sounds are drowned out by cows:
in the gaps between warning mooing
and anticipatory mooing
the cud chewing is audible
as is the slurping of hooves
in and out of deep mud
and the soft plops
of freshly forming cow pats

the wind whistles past my ears
like breath over a bottle
and stirs the old macrocarpa to gossip

an aeroplane drones overhead
echoed by a white ute purring
past the end of the road

bees hum in golden gorse flowers

The old dog, panting, 
splashes into the gurgling stream

My heart beats in my ears
as I climb the hill

So quiet in the country


Monday, September 19, 2016

Being Present and Peaceful

In the dark days, it is so easy for me to forget just how easy it is to be at peace in the beautiful place that is  my home. My counselor suggested to me the other day that I should try to get out and enjoy the natural world more. I am outside every day, but always with purpose - feeding the ducks and chooks, gardening, walking for my health. He suggested that I just sit / walk / be. Of course, I didn't. But a few days later my grandson, who stayed for the weekend, wanted company to go down into our bush to see if the bridge was still there.  It was.
And if the hut was still there: It was but the ladder had rotted and the floor had slipped and was a bit suspect.
Bob The Dog came with us.
And Spike The Cat too.

I can't believe how I can forget to walk down into my little piece of paradise! It is so easy to put my anxiety and worries and depression aside, and just be present in the present when I am there. Yet I spend miserable months sitting in my house, just metres from the bush, despairing of my world.

The dog loves it.
The cat loves it.
The boy loves it.
The old woman loves it.