Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

What do you see when you look in the mirror? For as long as I can remember, I have seen nothing but flaws. Most of the time I would deliberately avoid looking in mirrors or shop windows. The house we live in has a long passageway and is dark at the bedroom end, so we hung a long mirror at the end to reflect light: for thirteen years I always looked at the floor when I walked to my room.

It wasn't simply that I didn't like what I saw - too skinny (a long, long time ago) / too fat / too grey / too wrinkly / too big a nose / too big a mouth / breasts too small (again, a long, long time ago) / breasts too big / hands too stubby / finger joints deformed / papery old woman hands / etc etc etc - it wasn't just that I saw all my faults and didn't like them. It was that the sight of myself made me sick, as in nauseous, close to vomiting. There have been times when I have taken that hallway mirror down and stood it face to the wall.

This feeling has been there to some degree since I was five and a half, changed schools, and became known as 'Peastick' for the next ten years. It is tied to the depression I have suffered from most of my life. Like the depression, the self-hate has always been there, sometimes to a lesser degree (that's the time I can go shopping for clothes), sometimes, as I said, to the point of turning the mirror to the wall.

Last year I heard that my GP was leaving to go to a different practice, and I was told that under his contract he was not permitted to tell any of his patients where he was going. My depression was more under control than it had been for decades, but the news sent me straight into a panic attack. In the panic-stricken days that followed I decided that I couldn't cope with finding a new GP - I have had a number of bad experiences with doctors. Consequently, my crazy mind concluded that I would just have to get healthy so that I would never need to visit a GP again. Like that's ever worked for anyone!

Still, off I went to see a doctor who diagnosed leaky gut. He has told me to stop eating gluten, to eat more protein (I've been vegetarian for 40 years) and has given me a bunch of supplements for detox purposes, to heal, and to recolonise my guts with the right micro-organisms. This doctor had recently left his general practice to specialise in this sort of work in private practice.

Without going into detail, I will say that my digestive system is significantly better, my joint pain has reduced to a very occasional twinge, and I have lost a few kilos.

But more important is the change in my mental health. The doctor says that leaky gut is invariably accompanied by 'leaky brain', and that many people find relief from depression when their leaky gut problems are addressed.

To start with I thought that I was feeling better simply because I had been given hope. But it's midwinter and I catch myself singing while I work. I am making books and doing other craft work again. I didn't have even the slightest meltdown when my computer broke down (those close to me know how big that one is!) I suddenly noticed the other day that I no longer count items of clothing and pegs when I hang out the washing. I no longer count my steps when I am walking alone in the street. In fact the only times I'm counting is when I'm doing things like knitting - k23, m1, k1, m1, k23........ There is no hint of even a tiny black sink hole in the back of my head where the depression has retreated but lingered in good times over the past decades.

And when I look in the mirror, even though I still see the white streaks in my hair, the wrinkles, lumps, bumps and surplus fat, I no longer feel nauseous. I just see a smile on the face of a contented, ordinary woman.

Life is good.

PS I found my old GP and have re-registered with him - he had taken over the general practice of the doctor who is guiding me through these changes!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Life on the Land in June

It's nearly the shortest day, and I know that the worst of winter comes in July, but still, days like today are miraculous. It's great to be reminded of how lucky I am to live in such a lovely place.

 When my friend Susan and her family moved back to the States way back at the beginning of the century, she dug up her wedding anniversary rose and brought it to live with us. It hasn't grown well in our winds, but determinedly keeps on growing - and today I found one bloom, near the base of the plant.
 These bulbs came from my friend Margaret,and what a sweet reminder that spring will come round in its time.
 I first got pineapple sage from my mother, and have had it every since. She died nearly 25 years ago, so I guess I've had this lovely winter flowering herb for about 35 years. Can you see the bee? They can't get down into the flowers, so they nip a hole in the base, and steal the nectar.
 Gorse. A weed. Yet it has a delicate and delicious fragrance - and it is buzzing with bees at this time of the year - a staple of their winter diet.
 The other winter staple is tagasaste.
 You can see some of the bees with the pollen they have gathered in pollen sacks on their legs.

And the bumblebees make sure they get more than their fair share.

The one last ancient chook left. She's blind in one eye, and the other eye isn't so great either, but she can still find her way to the water bowl and the Grandpa's Feeder, and although she quite often falls asleep standing up, she still enjoys a bit of sun and a dust bath. She's served her time as a great layer, so I don't begrudge the old lady her retirement.

 It's pretty hard to tell the difference between the new chooks (hatched at the end of January) and the older girls. Of the six who have almost made it to adulthood, I still don't know how many are roosters - I think half, but still can't be sure.

 These are two of the young ones.
 The nashi leaves are still lying on the grass, and there's even a few clinging to the tree.
 Will our sugar cane make it through the winter? I've been out covering it with frost cloth, and we have planted lots of tagasaste around (see the electric fence standards used as markers.)
 The little grapefruit tree is promising a good batch of marmalade, as long as the pesky possums don't get to them - hence the trap.
 The lemons have suddenly started ripening up - we have gone from almost enough to too many in just a week.
 And way, way too many limes.
 The garlic, three types, is planted.
 Can't wait for spring peas - I've never grown them at this time of the year before, but they are looking good.
Assorted greens, which may or may not come to anything.
The broad beans are growing well and some have started to flower already - that garden will be alive with bumblebees shortly.
 We have chard,
 and carrots,
 and leeks,
 and parsley,
 and excessive amounts of New Zealand spinach,
 and rhubarb
 and Cape Gooseberries
 and Chilean guava. ( As well as the harvested onions, pumpkins and potatoes.)
 I have relocated some of the strawberry plants (and re-homed about a hundred and fifty so far.)
 But it's a glorious day, perfect for sitting in the sun.
 Morning tea: lemon and honey drink, gatherings from the garden, and a handful of almonds (not home-grown, but home soaked and dried.)

Life is good.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mushrooming Intentions

Last weekend I went on a Tree Crops association visit to a local property where Lennart Prinz is growing mushrooms. You can buy mushrooms from Lennart at the Hamilton Framers' Market on Sunday mornings. I discovered that many mushrooms take a lot more energy, equipment and knowledge to grow than I have or want.


However, I am going to have a go at growing shiitake mushrooms as they seem much less labour intensive, at least once you get started.

All I have to do is chop down a couple of spare chestnut trees, cut into logs,

 drill holes all over the place, stuff spawn in the holes, seal the holes with wax
  - and wait.

 Better go get the chainsaw out.