28 September 2015

Spring things

Daylight savings just started, arriving simultaneously with lots of sunny days. Therefore, there are important things happening around here: growing vegetables, flowers and chickens. 


I'm growing a few flowers (more than ever, the older I get !), but mostly we focus on vegetables - our garden is actually an extension of our pantry/fridge. We think about what we want to eat, then grow it. Cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, spinach, peas, lettuce, spring onions, garlic, beans, shallots, kale and potatoes come to mind. Oooh, and strawberries.

A sunflower emerges
We're  later than last year planting our vegetable seeds, but it's as exciting as ever watching them come up. One experiment from last year that we've enthusiastically taken up is the tomaccio plants from Egmont seeds. The tomatoes were intensely sweet and delicious, and the plants were hardy, producing a LOT of fruit well into autumn. $5 for just two seeds sounds scary, but it's worth it. Only when I was sowing them at the end of August did I remember vowing to grow nothing but tomaccio this year, but by then we already had other types of tomatoes sprouted. Oh well, next year.


I've sown Icelandic poppies, but I have ladybird poppies (red with black spots) to sow, and wildflower seeds. I've also just planted three Asiatic lily bulbs - enormous, fragrant and rather over-the-top lilies that I love having in a vase. From now on they'll be free from the garden.

Our tulips by the front door are blowing us away, rather. It is SO worth planting some bulbs each autumn!


I've also been loving my new chickens - the others were 'spent', as they say. I brought in four fresh ones: three brown shavers and the other a half-Orpington, half-bantam something-or-other. She's a character, our Hattie - and isn't she gorgeous?

When she lays us an egg, sometimes she leaves us a token feather, in case we don't know that her distinctive creamy egg is hers. Aren't feathers beautiful?

17 September 2015

Just add pollinators

Spring is blooming around here. It is wonderful watching the world emerge from winter.

But where do the seasons come from? Jack and I watched a little youtube video a few days ago, which made it so clear how the earth's tilt on its axis, combined with its annual circuit around the sun, creates seasons.

The blossom and birdsong have been gorgeous. Today was a shorts-and-shirt day, and we watched the different pollinators visiting our plum and peach trees. So far we've seen the following nectar feasters: two types of wasp (boo), honey bees, huge fat bumblebees, tiny wax eye birds and a monarch butterfly.

Six different pollinators! In July I went to the Tauranga TEDX talks. One of the speakers talked about how there are so many different and even unexpected creatures that pollinate flowers. During his PhD he found that pohutukawa flowers were being pollinated by long-tailed bats on Little Barrier Island, and rats on the mainland! Surprising, all right.

1 September 2015

Preventing stuffocation at home

Hello again!

It's been spring-cleaning time here. Anna, who had turned nine the day before, spent about four hours yesterday with me clearing out her bedroom. It was an enormous job, and we were both exhausted from her party/sleepover, but we were focused, and we did it!

Anna's bedroom. She made her own bed this morning.

I despair, though, about the amount of 'stuff' we had to shift. How can we avoid it coming into our lives?

Prevent stuffocation

We are stuffocated, even though I say no over and over again to $2 shop visits, plastic toys, and even thrift-shop finds. Certainly the pile of stuff we sent to the landfill was not as big as the one we'll be giving away. I'm not even sure that thrift shops will be able to accommodate all the beads and trinkets we'd like to unload on them. The world is awash with such stuff. (Note: Stuffocation is the name of a book, not my witty invention sadly!)

I've resolved to be tougher in future: birthday parties will be no-presents-please (although our children will get presents from us), and I'll have to be even stricter with saying no. This orderly room with some bare surfaces is worth fighting for - as well as a cleaner planet, of course!

But how to do it without causing offence? There have been a couple of situations recently where I've either had to accept the junk, or offend someone.

The well-meaning and devoted soccer coach gives out $2 shop purchases as game prizes, and the school PTA has children seeking sponsorship for completing their cross-country run, with toys for the children that get bigger as the amount of sponsorship gained grows. We skipped the sponsorship deal, but it felt impossible to offend the coach or disappoint Anna as each team member dipped into the goodie bag to choose a prize.

We had a two-bag week thanks to the clear-out and party.

Why we have to say no

The last issue of New Zealand Geographic magazine (in which I have an article about bumblebees) has is a fascinating story about rubbish. It says that every month, New Zealanders send a rugby field's worth of rubbish to landfill. It's a very tall rugby field: thirty stories high.

Apparently this is a fairly constant amount.  We continue to get better at recycling, but unfortunately this is outweighed by buying ever-increasing amounts of stuff, so the landfill burden doesn't drop. Often it's stuff that's cheap to buy, but only because the cost it imposes on the environment is not included in the price.

Low-waste living tips

There are people far more expert than me to advise on this: see www.rubbishfree.co.nz for the full info on a New Zealand couple who reduced their waste to one supermarket bag full of rubbish for a whole year. Their website has all the how-to of it, plus a shop - yes, for more stuff! - to help you reduce waste.

I bought for my neighbour something along those lines for her birthday recently. They were a 6-pack in a little red pouch of extremely light, see-through 'weigh bags' for gathering and weighing fruit and veges before purchase. I got them through www.onyabags.co.nz. I reckon their backpack would be an awesome little pull-out-of-your-hat bag when going on holiday.

The reward

One of the hardest things is to get others on board. Even Anna emerged from our clean-out feeling good about it, though. She said "I gave away some of the things I loved" (although she had the final say over everything that went), and also "I loved cleaning my room with you". At the end of the day, I realised that working with your child - as long as they're willing participants - is every bit as rewarding as doing something more leisurely with them.

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