Tuesday, December 27, 2016

This morning I weeded the asparagus garden, It has been sadly neglected pretty much always - maybe next year I'll have kept it weeded and we'll get more than a taste. Mind you, I've said that every year!

Simon and Zea headed off to the far north for New Year, and Jeff and Konny went into Hamilton to catch up with friends. It's been lovely having them all visiting, and good to see so many of their friends, and mine, over the holiday season. However, I was feeling shattered today until a visit from my oldest close friend, Eileen, meant a relaxing afternoon with no energy expended because I am so comfortable with her.

Meanwhile, the oldest goat lay down in the sunshine for a sleep today, and didn't wake up again. RIP Auntie, you were the nicest of the goats.

Mac attached the front-end loader to the tractor in order to bury her, and then followed up by filling with dirt, the old boat we acquired months ago from his brother. I dug the weak peppermint roots up from their spot under the pineapple sage and replanted it. Hopefully I won't have to buy any more peppermint tea ever again!

Monday, December 26, 2016

They've Gone: What's Left for Me?

my sons are gone
their partners, grandchild
the friends have gone
and (temporarily) the husband

it's just me left
so very quiet
i am alone, alone
without their presence

feel the silence
bone deep, nothing
beyond my breath
and the ringing in my ears

except for the purr
and the bark
the scratching and clucking
the quacking
the buzzing
the squawking of mynas
harassing the harrier

the stream splashes
down the rocks
the leaves murmmer
at the touch of a breeze
and in the distance
the muffled ocean roars
as it crosses the bar

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Solstice, Procrastination, and Good intentions

Today it actually feels like summer at last. It is also the solstice, so it's about time it felt like summer!

Yesterday I went and collected 40 kumera tupu from Liz, our local permaculture guru, who lives just a few minutes away. The season is late here: last year I planted them in November. They grew well and now I know how to do it, they stored well too, and we are eating the last of them now.

I have not done well with producing food this year. I have been focused on getting healthier, on what I can and can't eat now I am diabetic, and have been fairly dispirited about growing food as a consequence. I am so disappointed that our fruit trees are not bearing much fruit this year, the ones that I can eat, anyway. I had planned on bottling lots of apples and pears, but we have no pears on our three trees, and not many apples.
I only recently decided to grow kumera again. Potatoes are definitely out for me, so haven't grown any, much to Mac's disappointment. However, I have found that I can take kumera in moderation. Of course, being both an impulse buyer (Hey I think I'll grow kumera again, I'll go get some tupu now,) and a procrastinator (I don't know what to grow in that garden so I won't prepare it for anything,) I got up this morning and knew I had to work hard in the hottest day of 'summer' so far (26C)
Of course, like all procrastinators, I am easily distracred. On the way to the kumera garden, I realised that the basket willows were lost in weeds so stopped to clean that mess up, 'pruning' some with the scythe in the process. I took this before I'd finished just so I could see what a mammoth task it was!

 My vege gardens have been similarly neglected, but the bees are loving it. There are actually young pea plants in there somewhere.
Anyway, I did manage to get the bed dug and weeded, but needed Mac's help after work to hit the warratahs in for the extended windbreak - not just to guard against the wind, but also in the hopes of keeping the pukeko out. I have only about a quarter of the shallots and garlic that I originally planted left, after the wretched birds kept pulling in out. They didn't like it, but had to keep trying, just in case the next one was different!
It was very hot, and hard work. I'm tired and my joints in my hands are throbbing from all the pulling of over-size weeds, but still, I feel incredibly privileged to live and work in this beautiful place.
It's been a funny week. I've spent time thinking about my parents, as my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer 28 years ago yesterday, and died just 11 days later, following on from my father's death 8 months earlier. I've been thinking about my sons who have been through some hard times this year, but also some good times. I've been thinking of my personal difficulties with diabetes and depression this year - I've managed not to succumb to depression, but it's been a struggle nonetheless. But I've also been looking forward to seeing all my sons on the 25th, and to various 'happenings' coming up next year.

From my health problems has arisen a deep gut knowledge that I am going to die. I always knew it intellectually, but now I know it. This coming year I want to tell people if I love them. And what I love about them. Actually tell them, rather than wait and say it at their funerals. In the last week two people have said kind things about me, to me, and it felt so good. But it is also important to express the bad things if it is important to you and if the person is / has been important in your life. I never told my father anything other than I loved him. I tried to talk to my mother about the issues that have taken me the 28 years since her death to almost come to terms with - she refused to discuss or listen. I did tell her that I loved her, and thanked her for some of the positive things she had done - but only as she lay on her death bed. As I finished, she took one last breath and died. I don't remember her ever saying she loved me, or that approving of anything about me. I wish she had been able to talk to me, and to hear me.

I hope that people, my sons, friends, whoever, don't procrastinate, and will talk to me about what they need to say to me before I die, rather than saying the good things at my funeral, and the bad things to their therapists.
Today, in the garden, on this summer solstice day, I worked hard and didn't think much at all, just sat with the present. And it was good.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Relationships: Too Hard Some Days

When you never felt loved as a child, when you grew up thinking that you had to earn every scrap of affection, when you were always told that what you did was not good enough, you end up unable to believe that people care about you, love you. And you don't know how to manage relationships.

There are friends who, as I get a bit healthier, mentally, I realise weren't really friends at all, even though we filled functions for each other.: I was so desperate to be liked, I did whatever was needed to maintain their 'affection', and only realised recently that they didn't really give a fuck about me personally except where I was useful for their purposes. I'm not saying they are worse than me - just that, like me, they have needs.

There are other friends who do care about me, as I do for them. People who ask how I am, and what I've been doing, and listen when I answer, as often I do with them. People who I enjoy, and who seem to enjoy my company too.

I've reached a point where I have been able to let some just drift away. If they come back, and I can see a change in the way we interact, I won't turn my back on them.

The hardest relationships to manage are those with my sons. They are adults, grown and leading their own lives. But my love for them is still every bit as strong as it ever was, as when I fell in love at first sight when each was born. And yet they are drifting further and further away. I don't know most of their friends. I no longer know all the things they like to eat. I know little about their interests or their opinions or about what matters to them anymore. Mostly they don't seem to want me to know, and mostly aren't interested in my opinions or in having conversations about much.

I sometimes know they love me, but not always. I sometimes think they like me, but not always. I sometimes think they trust me, sometimes, some more than others. I miss knowing these people who I love so much, more than anyone or anything else in the world, but I am required to smile and act glad that they are becoming more independent, more their own unique people, leading their own lives. To smile, and be grateful for the morsels they share.

I remember thinking that the reason our memories of childbirth fade so quickly is because otherwise a woman would not give birth a second time - let alone a third and fourth time so it! But what would really kill off the human race, would be foreknowledge of the pain of successfully raising independent children. Some days it's just too fucking hard.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Thoughts Around Food

Since someone was talking to me the other day about becoming vegan as an ethical choice, I've been thinking again about how I make my food choices.

I became a vegetarian in the early 1970s, after I left home and went flatting. I had never liked eating most meat, and, in particular, disliked the texture. I liked pork, ham, bacon, but nothing else. Back in those olden days, vegetarianism was pretty unusual and I frequently faced questions from people who were sure I'd die if I didn't eat it. I started reading about being a vegetarian, and attended a vegetarian cooking / nutrition class run by the Seventh Day Adventists. No Google or internet back then. I quickly realised that if I was worried about health, pig meat was probably the most important one to give up, and a few weeks working at the Huttons factory in Frankton made giving up pig meat an easy decision!

My interest in learning more about staying healthy led me to the Soil And Health Association in Hamilton, and from there developed an interest in organic growing, and so on through wider areas of healthy eating. Obviously I came in contact with the ideas of veganism and animal welfare, but my interest was mainly in factors that related to my health. I bought free range eggs when I could, and continued to eat dairy products and honey from 'wherever'.

In 2000 we moved to a block of land in the country where we try to grow as much food as we can, though I admit I could do a lot more if I was a real yeoman farmer / peasant - I don't work in the cold and rain, nor put in the hours that are needed to be properly productive. I did a permaculture design course, and continue to read widely in these areas. I started understanding the other ethical issues involved in food production

When I buy food, I take into account a variety of things. First and foremost, I no longer buy food that will harm me - as well as being vegetarian, I am wheat-free (doctor's orders) and diabetic.

I buy as little processed food as I can, preferring to make my own from scratch, ensuring ingredients are as fresh as possible, and necessary for the eating rather than for shelf life.

I buy organic as much as I can find and afford, partly because so many fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides have far reaching effects on non-target species. I avoid GM food because it is designed to increase the amount of herbicides and insecticides that can be used, again affecting non-target species. Because of labeling law inadequacies, buying organic is the only way to avoid these. Veganism for reasons of not killing animals, needs, in my opinion, to be organic, and fairtrade, because standard food production thrives only with a huge amount of herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides - but I guess it depends on your definition of  'animals'.

I buy as local as I can, Raglan first, then Waikato, North Island, South Island, Australia, Pacific Islands and so on. I rarely buy imported fruit and vegetables. The other day I wanted some frozen blueberries and raspberries but couldn't find any that were NZ produce only - so I'm going without until I do my annual pick-your-own in a few weeks time and freeze enough for the coming year.

I buy fairtrade as much as I can find and afford. I don't want to buy food that has been grown using exploitative labour.

I try to avoid plastic where practicable.

All of these things, other than my dislike of the taste and texture of meat, reflect values that are important to me: the importance of keeping healthy, not just myself, but the earth. Of treating people and animals well. The permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair share, plus the ideas of the slow food movement and food security are pretty much what guides my thinking. I understand the ethics of people who become vegan, both the land use issues and the issue of killing animals in the process of food production, but not for the first time, I have concluded it is not for me. To eat as a vegan at this point in time, would require me to compromise too many of my other areas of concern.

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.