Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Independence Days


Quince jelly - Cape Gooseberry Jam - Feijoa jelly

I love the idea of the Independence Days movement - it seems it has grown sufficiently to be called a movement. It's the reality that I'm struggling with! I certainly could do it daily, and indeed, I'm struggling to do even half of it weekly. But I guess the important thing is being aware, and striving towards the goal. So the following is what I have achieved over the past week.

* Plant Something - failed there!

* Harvest Something - the last of the chestnuts, apples, feijoas, parsley, lemons, cape gooseberries, potatoes, New Zealand spinach, a few tomatoes - this section looks a bit better, thank goodness.

* Preserve Something - fruit chutney, bottled apple, cape gooseberry jam, froze chestnuts

* Reduce Waste - I made a determined effort to remember my reuseable shopping bags, going back to the car for them, rather than ask for a plastic bag (It's not so long ago that I was told at The Warehouse that I had to have a pink plastic bag for 'security reasons', and now you have to ask for a bag and, I think, pay for it.) I also took as much of my shopping from the bulk bins at Frankton Organics, using their plastic bags (which are later composted) rather than buy the prepackaged food.

* Preparation and storage - Spent a bit extra when shopping, to start building reserves for the first time. Toilet paper was first on the list (I remember childhood days, living in the country without a car and having to use torn up newspaper - yuk!), rice, beans, lentils, and a few extra cans.

* Build community food systems - not much here - have made a feijoa cake to take to a friend's place tonight, along with a jar of cape gooseberry jam (if it has set.) I'm a fairly private person and find it hard to get involved, as well as living out in the country.

* Eat the food - well, I have done that! But nothing new or adventurous.

Oh well, maybe better next week, though as winter has arrived it will be harder I suspect. But I'm feeling that the really important thing is to become aware - without constant awareness, it is all so easy to slip into a lazy I'll-do-it-tomorrow way of living.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Slicing Up My Life

It's 23 years since I started homeschooling and as the years went by and we became less and less 'homeschoolers' and more 'unschoolers', I found it more and more difficult to split our lives up into Subjects. I had to stop and think hard when it came to review time, because our lives had ceased to be a matter of Maths and History and Science and English: we just lived, and all those things became a part of our life in a seamless kind of way.

I've been reading blogs lately and finding that increasingly people seem to have several blogs, each covering a different area of their lives, so I just looked back at my blog since I started and realised that it is a total jumble of poetry, craft work, ideas, thoughts, feelings, gardening, life happenings. I started to wonder if I too should have several blogs, but then looked at what it says at the top of my page underneath the name: A mishmash of some of the poems, pictures, ponderings and everyday happenings that make up my life. And you know what? That is how my life is - a jumble, a mishmash, just like my unschooling, and I don't think I can untangle the parts.

When I am gardening or doing housework, my mind often wanders to politics or poetry or an idea for a new book cover. Which blog do I write that in? When something significant happens in my life, I often write poetry about it. When I find some interesting leaf while working the land, it is likely to find its way into a book. When I'm making a book, I'll be listening to the radio and find out something interesting to talk to family about or hear about some event someone may want to go to. When I'm cooking I'll think about what I need to plant in my garden. When I'm playing on the computer, I'm chatting to friends and family.

So it seems I can split neither my blogs, nor my life, into pieces. As in my days of homeschooling, I admire and sometimes envy those who can, but it's not my style. Oh well, hardly anyone reads my blogs anyway, no one is clamouring for me to be more organised, so it's not really an issue!

It's just one of those 'shoulds' that hide in bushes and leap out to bite you on the leg every so often - and I am reminded once again that the only genuine 'should' is that one 'should' not do things just because someone, even yourself, says you 'should'!

Miss Smith, my Standard 1 teacher told me my mother had very bad taste, that one 'should' never wear blue and green together (I was wearing a skirt made in my mother's family tartan). Well, I won't listen to 'shoulds' and these days I still wear blue and green in the same garment! Nyah nyah!





Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Pre-Easter Holiday: Part Two

On Tuesday 7th April Mac and I set off to go to the top of New Zealand - well, the most northerly part that can be reached by road. In 2003 we had made it to the bottom of the South Island, to Bluff but we had never made it to Cape Reinga. We got more and more anxious as the rain set in, but kept going determinedly believing that the clouds would clear.

And we were right!

The Lighthouse (obviously!) which is now fully automated and run on solar power from panels you can just see sticking out to the right of the lighthouse.

Mac posing for the obligatory tourist photo.

Out in front of the lighthouse is the place where the waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet - you really can see the waves coming from both directions. It is an amazingly spiritual place, and I could tell that the other people there felt the same even if they wouldn't necessarily express it in those terms: everyone spoke in subdued tones, and apart from the photo taking, behaved pretty much like people do in a church. (Well, how they behaved when I used to go to church over 40 years ago - who knows what they do these days?)

Heading back down we went and had a look at the huge sand dunes which are made up of sand from the central North Island volcanoes, which was washed down the rivers, out to sea, and then up the coast. People now slide down them on body boards - but we decided not to hire boards and walk to the top of the dunes this time but to wait till they put in a ski lift!

Next stop, Spirits Bay. What a treasure.

Though the beach sloped a bit too steeply into the water, and the water was a lot colder than Raglan so my togs stayed in the car!

Further on we stopped at Gum Diggers Park where we followed a trail around a gum field which has a recreated gum diggers village.


A gum diggers hut - note the Wellington boots, originally made of leather, which in New Zealand became known as gumboots because the gum fields were where they were mainly used in those early days. Another word discovery for me.

The huts were made of whatever was to hand, sticks and the sacks that the gum was shipped out in. Not exactly weather proof, and I doubt anyone lingered in bed once awake!

Sieving for small pieces of gum.

The store where the diggers sold their gum and bought provisions.


Spikes were used to stab the swampy ground and when they felt something hard they dug. Some small holes,

some huge.

And that's about it. No sons with us for the first time in 28 years, but Mac and I are still having educational holidays and learning lots!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Pre- Easter Holiday: Part One

After 28 years of parenthood, Mac and I had a holiday without any sons: it was very strange! It was fun in a different sort of way.

Too sudden a change might have been too much but on Saturday 4th April we went north for my niece Susan's wedding, which was lovely. It was fun to catch up with people I hadn't seen for quite a while - and three of my four sons were there.

Susan and Phil

Steven, Jeff and Simon

We stayed in Orewa for the night, and Simon and Jeff stayed the night with us. Then Mac and I traveled on to stay with his sister in Paihia. We took the long road to Paihia, turning off at the Brynderwyns and driving over to the west coast.

First stop was Baylys Beach, where we had lunch.

Then on up the coast, where we stopped to see the giant kauri, Tane Mahuta, which I just remember visiting when I was about 8. Mac had never been up that coast before.

While I was standing looking at this beautiful tree, an irritated grandmother growled at an energetic boy of about 6 years: "Did you think we came here just for you to practice your karate?" Boy: "Yep." Me: "Do you think you could karate chop down that tree?" Boy: "Naaah." (Tone of voice clearly says =you silly old woman=) "I've only been doing karate since last year." (Tone of voice clearly implies the answer will be yes in a couple more years.) As precious as the great kauri is, so small boys are just as precious.

The Hokianga Harbour was just delightful - well the bit we saw anyway - Omapere and Opononi.

Then on to Pahia, where we stayed three nights with Mac's sister Jenny and her partner, Malcolm.

On Monday afternoon Mac and I went across to Russell on the ferry.

(We were a bit concerned as to whether the ferry driver was fully qualified - but hey! we're retired homeschool parents, so what the heck! We appreciate the need for kids to be involved :p)

We browsed the shops and had an ice cream. We were thinking about heading back, when Mac sat down at the water's edge and started playing with the camera.

I walked on along the waterfront, and discovered a small sign outside Pompallier which informed me that this place had originally been a tannery, printing works and bindery making Maori Catholic prayer books and I discovered that the entry fee included a tour.

I went back to tell Mac and we had a coffee while we waited for the next tour in half an hour.

It was just so exciting for me as a binder, but Mac found it just as interesting. We were the only people on the tour and had we been better organised and got there earlier, we would not have had such an interesting time because they had a couple of school parties in. Because there were just the two of us I could ask as many questions as I liked.

The tannery: stage one. First soak the hides in large containers of urine collected from the piss pots outside the pubs, till the hair could be scraped from the skins, along with the remains of the fat (used to make candles, soap and dubbin.)


Stage two: the skins are tanned - soaked in water and tannin-rich bark. This stage took many month especially for the larger skins. They were lifted out each morning to dry out a bit, then put back into the pits to soak some more at night.

The smell of the hides attracted the attention of ship rats, who swam ashore and made their homes there, digging out holes in the rammed earth walls of Pompallier.

The rammed earth walls.

The 'forms' used to make the walls.

Because of the high level of lime in the walls, due to shell being used in the mix, when the rats died they became mummified and there are some very well preserved rats on display!

Once tanned, the leather still needed to be worked with a range of tools to make it pliable, and scraped to get an even thickness.

Meanwhile the pages of the prayer books were printed. They had two presses. The first was the proof reading press, then once two pages were ready the were sent upstairs to the second press for printing.

Cases of letters, which were stored on a sloping desk. The letters in the top cases were called the upper-case letters, the ones at the bottom were the lower-case letters! Well, duh! I never even thought about why there were called those names!

Another term I never thought about is 'to coin a phrase'. Well, that's not what it should be - it should be 'to quoin a phrase'. The phrase being the words or 'type' which have been arranged in the 'chase' or steel frame. The 'quoins' are the wedges that lock the type in place in the chase. Not only do I love books and making them, I also love words!

Signatures (sections of pages) were sewn in a sewing cradle.

The pages are then trimmed in a lying press, with a plough, and then the edges gilded.

The books were pressed in a standing press like this,

which is able to handle a lot more books than my nipping press.

The gluing and covering process.


The cords that held the book together with the cover show, so were made into a feature. The strings on each side of the cord moulded the leather neatly.

All this may be more than than most people want to know but I enjoyed it immensely!