Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rediscovering Berries

One of the problems associated with depression is lack of motivation, lack of energy, lack of interest. Over the last 18 months, as I have struggled with depression and spent a lot of time working to learn to deal with it, many things have been neglected. One is my berry garden.

This is my raspberry patch. Truly - there are raspberry plants in there somewhere! You can see how tall the grass is, by comparing it to the ordinary garden fork stuck in the ground.
This morning I started the renewal programme by uncovering the blueberry and currant bushes which were similarly hidden. They have been affected by the neglect: three were dead, and some of the remaining bushes don't look at all healthy - I will have to buy more this autumn - but we will get a few blueberries soon.
 This is the result of my morning's labours! It will compost down and then I will spread the resulting humus around the bushes.
 How could I have neglected them so? Especially when working my gardens and orchards leaves me feeling so good.

Dealing With Depression

The past 18 months have been a long journey for me - and I'm not there yet. In fact I know I'll never be 'there', because this life of mine is a constant journey. However, following a massive attack of depression in June 2010 I have been working on learning to train this black dog of mine. I've been to a clinical psychologist, read many books, explored dozens of websites, but the two things that have helped me most have  been John Kirwan's website, and keeping a journeyjournal. The latter helps me remember what it feels like to be at the bottom, but also reminds me of the things that help me - when I'm down, I find it hard to remember.

 On Tuesday night Jeff told us he and Konny had found a house in town and would be moving in this weekend. I slept badly that night, feeling sad. It's not like we have 'had' much of him the last six months, as he has been too busy with Konny and university and all the other stuff that goes with being a young adult, but I felt the loss of him strongly that night and next morning. I got up on Wednesday still feeling very sad,  and while eating breakfast, chipped a tooth. My old style was to assume the worst, that the tooth was cracked right through, was going to cause untold pain, and cost baskets full of money to repair. Instead I told myself, 'maybe it is just a chip,' and put it aside to deal with another day. But still felt sad.

I mucked about dismally all morning and part of the afternoon until I finally got myself into gear and headed into town to pick Steven up. As I drove into Hamilton I realised that I had started to withdraw into my grey bubble. I made myself look out at the world and see the same things I had seen a couple of days earlier when they had made my heart sing - the wild flowers, the stripes of young green maize in the fields, the harriers gliding over the trees, the gorgeous, wild clouds - and I saw that they were no different. It was me that was different. I made a real effort to observe and appreciate the beauty and slowly my mood lifted a little.

I got to The Base at Te Rapa (huge shopping complex) and decided to go buy myself some earphones for my mp3 player so I can have music in my car, instead of feeling miserable because my car cd player has broken. Yay! Music! I felt my mood rise a little more.

I collected Steve and headed for Auckland. Very slow traffic. Bad. Lots of time to talk with Steve. Good. I put missing Jeff out of my mind and concentrated on enjoying being with the son that was present.We got to Ceracell just 10 minutes before closing, to collect pre-ordered bee gear for me, and for Jacqueline. Good. Oh, they had forgotten to make up Jacqueline's order. Bad. Instead of getting annoyed, and worrying about how much time it was taking, I reminded myself, 'relax, there's no hurry.'

Three-quarters of an hour later......we were on the road again. The traffic was even worse. When we got to the Greenlane off ramp after half an hour driving in first gear, we decided to leave the motorway and go get takeaways for dinner and take them to eat at my sister's place hoping for a cup of tea. Not only were she and Graham there, but also her daughters, son-in-law and grandson. Claire was heading off on a holiday in Asia so they were having a Christmas dinner and presents opening for her.  So glad we called in - that bad traffic turned into something good.

Then off to CJC (Creative Jazz Club) in central Auckland. During a break between sets I turned around to ask the woman on the desk behind a question - my glasses flew off and I knelt on them resulting in a very twisted arm which meant I could only wear them if I had major cosmetic surgery on my head! I went to text Mac to tell him I would have to stay the night at Steve's place - and my phone died! It just kept turning off, even though the battery wasn't flat.

But the music was totally awesome! So I just focused on that. In the past I would have been berating myself for days. Instead I focused on the good.

Steve drove us back home to his place, and I stayed the night. The bed's not as comfortable as mine, and there's no curtain and they live next to a very busy road that trucks use as a bypass, so having gone to bed at 1.30am, I woke up at 10 to 7!  Hanging on to the joy by the skin of my teeth....

I checked my phone again - planning to pull it to bits and put it back together again - no need! It had revived!

At 9am I  woke Steve because I had to be in Raglan at 1pm. He got up and made me scrambled eggs for breakfast - what a treat!  Then off to the opticians. Having gotten a reminder two days earlier that I was due for my 2 yearly check up, I made an appointment, then produced my glasses. She was sorry but they wouldn't be able to fix them - well, she'd give it a go, but were sure the arm would break when she tried to bend it back into shape. A couple of minutes later she came out beaming and said, "I WON!"

Home. Oh, I haven't mentioned the rain. It had been raining for abut a week.  But that day it poured. I got soaked and covered in mud as I filled the van's radiator with water, and attached the trailer. Changed clothes. Into Raglan to the garage for Warrant of Fitness checks for both. Rain. Down to Black Sands for tea and bagel for lunch. Feeling damp and a bit sad again. Just as I was nearly finished, half a dozen Maori came in, all ages, sat down with milk shakes from somewhere else, didn't buy anything. After about 5 minutes one of the waitresses asked, "would you like me to take your order?" "Oh, no thanks, we're just waiting for someone else," said the oldest woman. The waitress didn't know what to do, but as the place was almost empty, she said no more. A few more minutes and I was about to leave, when another half dozen joined them, complete with several guitars and a 6 string ukulele - and Dave Maybee, a local musician. They started singing carols and it was very cool. (And they ordered food and drinks once they were all there.) The cafe filled up with people drawn by the music. I stayed and listened and had another drink.

The van and trailer both got warrants, and home I went. Got soaked and muddy again as I did country chores.

Today I went back into town for my eye exam and yay! my eyes haven't changed, there's no sign of glaucoma, and she said my eyes look very healthy, and have great muscle tone - I didn't even realise eyes could have muscle tone!

Whilst in town I witness two very near accidents, 3 cars pulled out in front of me, and one guy stopped his car in the middle of the road to answer his phone - while I, and the driver of another car stopped in the middle of the road behind him and practised out road rage!

That's a long and boring tale, I know, but it is also a wondrous tale. Two years ago I would have been driven into the ground by the sadness, the annoying things, the horrid things. Driven so far down that I would not, no, could not, see the good stuff that happened. I would have been catastrophizing (is there such a word? my spell checker thinks not!) from the very start of the day. By the time I left that club in Auckland I would have been spiralling down into a bout of depression - over what are really very trivial things. And I could feel the pressure, I could feel the perverse desire to wallow in misery, tempting me to take the familiar 'easy' route. But I didn't. I kept focusing on the moment, focusing on the beauty, no matter how small, that I see around me every day.

I don't think I'm good enough at this happiness thing yet to cope with the sort of stuff that hit me in June last year, but I am getting so much better. I used to hate people who said, 'count your blessings,' as it seemed to me that thinking about the little joys somehow trivialised the big things. Now I realise that those little things form the anchor that keeps me from the rocks. And I have also come to recognise that this kind of conscious effort to control over how I feel about things is going to be my life's work - I cannot let up for a minute, or I start to fall. Is it my innate disposition? Or is it a very bad habit? I don't know, but I'm trying my best to overcome it, and life is definitely much much better - I can honestly say that I have been happy since June this year.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Spring Growth and Scything

Spring has arrived and with it the grass has grown swiftly and strongly, the fruit trees are blossoming and being pollinated by my bees and consequently setting fruit.
A pear tree, with my hives in the background....
 and set fruit.
Looks like we are in for another bumper nashi crop.
 The chooks are enjoying the growth in their run.
 The chooks enjoying food scraps and sprouted wheat, next to the korokia which has delicious (to chooks) red berries later in the season; and the fig from which we ate our first fruit last year. 
An apple tree and, behind on the fence, a boysenberry vine given by a friend - a huge mistake, as it is rampant but the chooks enjoy them.
I've never eaten vine leaves, but judging from the way the chooks keep the vine trimmed, they must be yummy! It's hilarious watching them jump straight up in the air to pluck a leaf.
We planted the pear tree, but both the avocado and the peach (just over the fence) have grown from seed thrown out with scraps, and are thriving in the rich compost made by the chooks. The avocado had flowers this year, so maybe next year we will get fruit, though I'm told it takes up to 15 years for a seedling to produce, and this is only about 6 years old.
The flax was brought with us when we moved here, and just dumped into the ground with no thought of where and why. Later we built the chook run around it. The chooks love the dry, shady spot that also provides snails and insect snack delights.
Mac mows with the tractor, and I used to clear around the trees using a line trimmer or bush bar. Neither the process nor the results were satisfactory. The process was loud and smelly, and often I gave up because the damn thing would stop and refuse to start again - I'm not really in tune with motors. The result was often a ring barked or damaged tree.

I now use a scythe, thanks to a workshop with The Jolly Scythers, and find it so much more satisfactory. The process is both good exercise, and a meditation practice. The results are better: I have not damaged a single tree.
Kiwiberries (tiny kiwifruit) and grapes - the scythe is so very much easier for freeing these from the grass.
 The Luisa plums were 'grassed out'...
 and looked better for the grass being cleared.
 My scythe.
And though the ordinary plums don't have much fruit this year, the Luisa is looking good.
 The grapevine on the chook run is looking good.
 The ugli fruit wasn't looking at all - it couldn't see out!

It's actually quite big! It had a few not-very-nice small fruit this year, but is covered with flowers at the moment, so I have high hopes for the next harvest.

Scything is hard, hot sweaty work, but I love the meditative quality of the time spent doing it, and the sense of satisfaction when I'm done. Over the last ten days I have done about half the trees, and by the time I'm finished it will be time to start again - but it's the sort of work I love, and it makes me feel like a real yeoman farmer.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bee Happy

So first I moved my hive, with some loss of bees, but successfully overall. Then I made a nucleus hive using a frame of brood with a queen cell. Would it work?

I was determined to wait at least two weeks before looking inside the nuc, but ten days later I had another look in my main hive and there was considerably less brood that before. I was worried. At the weekend I looked into the hive again, and although I thought I saw a few eggs, there were no larvae, and not a lot of brood. Panic call to Barbara my Bee Buddy. She came over last Tuesday and we looked again. We could see no queen, little brood, and, because it was a grey day, no eggs but there were a few larvae. We thought it might be a worker bees laying drones. But the thing I have learnt is, don't panic, wait a little longer. We looked into the nuc hive for the first time, and straight away Barbara spotted a large fat healthy looking queen! Yay!
Today I procrastinated all morning, then took a deep breath and went over to the hives. First, I looked into the bottom box of my main hive. The outside frame had honey and pollen in it and I removed that before looking further. I inspected the next three frames and -oh joy - found them full of eggs and larvae! There must be a queen in there! It appears my old queen absconded with a small swarm, and a new queen has taken over.

The next job was to check the nuc. I found that too was full of eggs, larvae and capped brood and full of bees, so I moved them into a full sized box. I now have two hives!

Now I'm just waiting for a phone call, this week or next, to say a nuc is ready for me to collect in Albany and then I will be a three hive beekeeper, which has been my aim since I started. Next year I'm thinking I might get myself a top bar hive.

I can spend hours watching these magical creatures.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Betsy McCall

I've been following a wonderful new blog, Pass It On. Johanna Knox and her friend Emma Levy say, "We realised we were all bursting to talk about the culinary legacies left by loved ones - and it suddenly seemed like an exciting idea to make a blog where inherited recipes could be passed on and special people remembered through those recipes. It's a tribute page with a difference."
Today's recipe was from Johanna's grandmother, a Canadian, and mention was made of paper dolls - which sent me off on a Google journey into my own childhood.

My maternal grandfather's people came to New Zealand in a somewhat convoluted way: Scotland to Canada, where some stayed and some went back to Scotland, where again some stayed and some came to New Zealand. When I was little my mother corresponded with a Canadian cousin, who periodically sent Mum a pile of McCall's magazines. The big excitement for my sister and me was the paper dolls and clothes that came with each one. And look what I found! Isn't the internet wonderful?

If you go to the site you can even download high quality versions so you can use them - and the great thing about that is you can also download TWO copies so you don't have to fight with your sister ever again!