Thursday, 23 January 2014

Restoration and Resilience

One of the nice things about getting older is that you eventually acquire a good range of useful skills. And, if by any chance, you do manage to grow older with the one you've always loved, there's an even better likelihood that you can do quite a large number of useful things between you. So then, in the event that you have lived in the same house for the past 25 years & you open up the door to the fire box & you find the space full of water because the wet back pipe is leaking, it's possible that between the two of you, you might just figure out what to do next. Well actually, it's the boy who is most useful in this instance, but I remembered the advice from the nice lady Annette down the road, about who does the best new wood burner deals (& the best quality).
Rob removed the old warped & worn out firebox & flue all by himself, since the man didn't turn up quite on time. And then he asked for advice at the tile shop & made the new hearth as well.
The nice council man (well so he should have to pay him quite a bit!) came in a couple of times & checked that it was all safe & sound; then signed it all off.
It was all completed just before Christmas which also makes us fully compliant with the new council emission rules & carry on & most of the expense can be paid off on our regional rates over a ten year period.
Since the wood veneer was a bit wrinkly & dark we decided to paper the back with some pretty Cath Kidston wallpaper.
I repainted the bricks, so that tidied up the chippy paint bits & now we will patiently await cooler days to have a try out.
Of course one renewed bit of a house often shows up something else in a rather shabby light...such as the paint job on the walls of the living room. So in the following weeks we have moved things around, filled in holes, sanded & repainted with a similar green. Pretty much the same green as before...the colour of green Carltonware.
With lots of applied skill & some fiddling around, the book case got secured to the wall, in case of earthquakes & just this week there was a big one felt here...right in the middle of me reading & recording my Phone News story! Now that all sounds a bit eagerly industrious...just one wall at a time will do, next one soon. 

In the midst of all this, I noticed one evening, that our ancient plum tree had "moved" quite a an unhelpful horizontal direction & when I took a closer look I found that the two source main branches had begun to split & the torque on one of them was particularly great because of the trees absurd summer growth spurt & the wind. So, I quickly got out my pruning saw & took some weight off the limbs that very evening.
Some of the branches are so twisted & intertwined, yet there is so much robust life in the tree.
We may eventually have to cut it down before it falls down, but not just yet.
For all it's size it doesn't produce a lot of fruit, & of course some plums are just plain unreachable, unless you're a wax eye.
I love the white hydrangeas of the summer garden.
And the summer sky blue of agapanthus.
They suit Lucy well, don't you think?
I always feel that it's worth while growing cherry tomatoes for the summer. I also tried these little "heart breakers" this year too. They are small growing & compact & so sweet & tasty & best of all when you cut them in half, each one makes a love heart.
Phew we have had some hot days lately. So when I saw Eleanor's post @ Petite Kitchen I just had to make this iced rooibus tea with honey, lemon & chia seeds....delicious!
I thought this lovely old jar I found recently might be a good thing to fill with iced tea for the fridge.
Despite my ardent intentions to bloom, we have found January to be a very challenging month. I truly don't understand why life has to be so hard when you are concentrating on the good & the lovely & not looking for any trouble what-so-ever! Some evenings we have headed for Lucy & got out the Angel Whisper tea tin of scrap paper,
 lighted our tea light jugs & over a cup of Earl Grey tea written out every thing good we can think of & all the compost too!
Our jars are filling fast!
This week has been truly hideous (can't speak of it just now).
 If only resilience were something that you could send for. 
I would order a whole trailer load & then share it around.
Wouldn't it be grand if all the goodness & the hope were visible like this.
"Elvin route made visible".
Thank you for visiting & being my friends.
Hope you have a good week.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Astonishing Encounters and the Compost Pot

Sometimes I think it would be quite reassuring to be in charge of life, but as it turns out I'm not actually in charge of anything much at all... most likely a jolly good thing!! My job this year, is to do all that I can to...bloom. That's going to keep me busy enough!
So imagine my astonishment when lurking at the Farmer's Market last week (buying greens), I heard a quiet voice say to me "Excuse me, you don't know me but my name is Pip & I'm from Dunedin & I follow your blog. I lost my husband last March & reading it has really helped me"!!!
I was totally blown away! I am so humbled & amazed!
Pip & I managed to sidle past the bins of courgettes & the hoards of visitors & find a space to chat a minute. Wonderfully, she agreed to come to our house, just around the corner & bring her lovely daughters Grace
and Ruby.
We were so thrilled to meet you...lovely ladies. Thanks so much for coming!

That same afternoon, Margaret (from next door) & I were standing out at the gate when a car pulled up containing a frazzled & bamboozled older couple who were desperately lost & trying to find their way to a wedding reception.They were actually miles out of the way & would most likely have remained lost had they not stopped & asked for help. We eventually figured it out & sorted out some directions & sent them ever so gratefully on their way.
I've since had a charming retired Dutch gentleman from down the road visit & bring me delicious fresh figs! And sold some for him too.
And been scammed by a woman in great distress saying she'd left two children in the car just down the road & she'd run out of petrol could I help her? I did & then realised the details that she'd written down for me were bogus...but more about that in a minute.

I've been keeping my eyes peeled for a pixie or two (well you never know with all that's been going on just who you might come across!) I like him a lot.
We've been busy painting walls, replacing old fireplaces & securing the bookcase to the wall in the living's only sat like that for 25 years & not fallen on anybody yet! We had to move stuff around a bit & ahem, clean..a lot! The ornamental birdcage got hung outside & suddenly I saw it differently in the light.
Sometimes we don't really need huge change, just a different perspective of the same things, don't you reckon?
Our old ancient plum tree has grown absolutely mentally the past few months. We left this plum to ripen but it kept hitting us on the head as we went passed, now it's nearly down to my elbow with the weight of it. I wonder who will get to eat it, us or the birds?
Maybe Burt will scoff it. He is so craggy & mangy looking & adores fruit & most especially cat biscuits. He's forever on the back porch pinching some more of them after Charlie's wandered off!
After mowing & painting & selling fruit on Tuesday we headed out to Tainui Reserve for a little late afternoon picnic. A perfect hot summer's day.
I found this spot overlooking the valley when I was hunting for banana passionfruit for Audrey for Christmas.
It was so still & so beautiful.
The valley was filled with the song of tui & the woosh of the wood pidgeons gliding by.
We lay on our backs & watched the clouds go by.
Later I looked down & realised I'd placed my glass beside a baby loquat tree.
Wonderful crab apples along the way & an azure summer sky.
My hyacinth beans have "beaned" this week.
I find them entirely fascinating.
Such an unusual colour.
 Today I am deeply mindful of the joy of having flowers in my garden.
Little hydrangeas like this "You & Me Together"..
 and sweet blooms to pick through every season. Truly, truly "earth laughs in flowers".
The purple koromiko is not only pretty & pickable but also medicinal as the leaves are used in traditional Maori medicine to treat upset tummies & other complaints.
When an agapanthus flower got knocked off in the driveway it suddenly dawned on me that the flower head didn't really need a stem to be enjoyed, so I "knocked off" a few more to keep it company.
Now back to the Goodness jar & to Compost. Compost (has she gone mad?!!) After seeing the lovely film "Gardening with Soul" recently & watching Sister Loyola giving very clear instructions in the art of compost making to the community garden workers, it occurred to me that I too needed to be making compost; of a different kind! Through the years I have chosen & leaned towards goodness, kindness & floral loveliness & life should have been good indeed (most excellent even), but it wasn' much crappity crap got in the way & was dished out to me continuously.
 To get really good blooms & grand vegetables, plants need to be watered & fed regularly & so do people. So I have decided that I need more than just a "Goodness" jar, I need to do something with all the rubbish & the trimmings too. I am layering my "Compost" pot with the dumb stuff, the sadness & the rudeness & the being "scammed" moments. My pot may get quite full but at least I will be acknowledging the challenges & doing something with them. At the end of this year I will feed the lot to my tiger worms & in turn feed my garden with nutrients for best blooming.
And "Vanessa" my woman in distress, well I rang the Police about her & then decided to be ever so grateful for all that I have & for an open heart to the needs of others. I am deeply grateful that my desperations are not like hers & I've let the encounter go...released it to the compost pot!
I've never made such Compost before so please do pipe up if you think of any other interesting ingredients for my pot or perhaps you might like to make one too. Let me know if you do!
Thank you so much for visiting me. A special warm hug to my friends in chilly parts.
Wishing you all a lovely week with way more Goodness in it than Compost!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Love, Faith & Compost

When all the world breathes more deeply, come year's end, when the timetables & routines loose their defining grip, there is sometimes a chance to take other paths & rest the soul. On Christmas day, Rob & I walked through this valley found at the top of Tauroa road. The tall trees are draped in fragrant garments of honeysuckle, ivy, blue morning glory & banana passionfruit vines.
There are hills to the east, a brook running through the centre of the gully & wild fruit trees dotted along the road back to the car.
Christmas red & bird friendly.
Dandy puffs along the mown burms...
morning glory as if lit from within.
At home we had cups of tea with our Lucy..
and listened to The Wireless Station the the Bush radio.
Rob kindly devised a new kind of quadpod so as to record the event.
A day or too later we had a delightful visit form my bestie & her mum....heading south to visit family.
In preparation for the ending of 2013 I swept out all the birch catkins that had weasled there way in every possible crack in Lucy & picked new flowers to grace the transition from one year in to another.
We celebrated together & reflected with gratitude all that we had been blessed with & got through over the past 12 months.  
I am so glad of the flowers, to have my own bit of earth & all the new changes that each season brings.
These hyacinth bean flowers are quite lovely. The pods will soon develop, flat & shiny deep purple.
And the begonias are happy here on the corner of the back porch. I don't recall planting the orange one but welcome anyway.
As I tidied up odd piles & discarded useless bits & bobs I came across a little folder with a theatre voucher still tucked in to it. Remembering that there was still some credit on the card (I was so kindly given) I looked to see what was on at The Globe Theatrette in Ahuriri. I was delighted to find that this interesting looking film/documentary was screening on Sunday afternoon. So I did something most unusual for me, I booked a seat & went to the movies on my own. 
Here is the lovely trailer:
Several days later I read this New Year's news item: "When Sister Loyola Galvin received a letter from the Government, she thought it must be a traffic fine. The 91-year-old nun examined her conscience, before discovering it was from the prime minister, to tell her she was becoming a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. It is a recognition of her long career as a nurse, and latterly as a gardener at the Island Bay Home of Compassion on Wellington's south coast. "I think it's rather amusing and I'm very grateful somebody thought about it," she said. "If I'd known it meant all this publicity, I would have said no."She modestly describes herself as "a very uninteresting person".
I have known about Sister Loyola since 2008 when I first read about her in the New Zealand Gardener magazine.  I recall falling in love with her story & her garden & trying to figure out how I could make my way down to Wellington to visit her.
I found this reported on concerning Sister Loyola being awarded Gardener of the Year:
"She's been voted New Zealand's top gardener, but Sister Loyola Galvin, 86, admits to a little help - she prays for divine intervention to ensure her plants are the best they can be.

"We're dealing with God's creations and I often ask that our efforts be successful because we're dealing with such beautiful things."

Though slight of build and at risk of being blown over in a stiff northwesterly, Sister Loyola can be found seven days a week, rain or shine, tending her vegetables behind Island Bay's Home of Compassion.

"I love it, and anything you love grows. Children that I've loved grew and I've done that all my life.
"So now I'm doing it with plants."

Sister Loyola, a former nurse, was named New Zealand Gardener's 2008 Gardener of the Year yesterday. She took up gardening in her early 70s, tending the home's four-hectare grounds. At 81, she took a permaculture course, learning the finer points of holistic and sustainable gardeni
And then this article that I recall reading at the time. imagine being blown down the bank!
"At age 81, Sister Loyola Galvin was blown down a bank by a gust of wind while tending her vegetable gardens at Our Lady’s Home of Compassion in Wellington’s Island Bay. The sprightly sister wasn’t going to let a double pelvis fracture and ruptured right-arm tendon stand in the way of her ministry to the four-hectare grounds, however.
Now 88, the former nurse ignored the doctor’s warning to take it easy while recovering. “I may be over 80, but I’m pretty fit”, notes Loyola, a Sister of Compassion for over 60 years who calls everyone “dear”.
Forget walking, just get gardening, she told herself at the time of her injury, and promptly commandeered an old wheelchair and fitted it with a battery. At first she could only motor around on flat areas, but soon she was careening up hillocks in order to tend every corner of her domain. “It was a question of getting past the pain barrier,” she says matter-of-factly. In five months, Loyola was back to full mobility and full gardening duties.
Since “retiring” 15 years ago, Loyola has gradually transformed the home’s grounds into a green oasis. While her fellow sisters enjoy the sight and smells of their favourite blooms, Loyola’s speciality is vegies: broccoli, beans, cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots, celery, potatoes, lettuces. “Everything you can grow for a salad”, and most other vegetables you could think of, feed the 20-or-so nuns and their guests – such as midwives, who use the rooms for conferences.
Any extras go to the Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre’s soup kitchen. Run by the nuns in the city centre since 1907, it serves up a hot meal each evening to 60-100 people. Recently, when past-their-prime potatoes were donated to the soup kitchen, Loyola chopped up the tired vegetables for compost and replaced them with spuds fresh from the ground.
Once she’s finished her daily prayers, Loyola is usually out in the garden from first light until dusk, seven days a week. Gardening according to permaculture’s holistic, sustainable philosophy, Loyola never uses chemical pesticides or fertiliser, and recycles materials wherever possible to spare both the planet and her meagre budget. Stacked bottles and tyre “fences” are windbreaks; cardboard is a base for raised beds; and plastic milk bottles (with bottoms cut off) shield small seedlings. Five colossal compost bins are perpetually refilled with everything from seaweed gathered from the nearby beach to horse manure scooped up from neighbouring stables, then covered with an old carpet and left to “cook” for four to five months. “It’s layered like a club sandwich,” says a proud Loyola, who’s happy to pass on the recipe to anyone who asks.
What Loyola relishes about gardening is the creativity it unleashes – and the palpable sense of life’s endless cycle. It also helps keep her strong. “I’ve met a lot of people gardening in their 80s and they’re fit, healthy and enjoying life.”
Six years ago, at Loyola’s request, the Home of Compassion employed an intellectually and physically handicapped man in the garden full-time. “When you’re 40-something and you’ve always been considered unemployable, that’s tough,” she says. “I’ve always tried to encourage people to do what they can do, rather than worrying about what they can’t.”
The unassuming sister got a shock – and some welcome garden-store vouchers – when she won the 2008 NZ Gardener of the Year title from a pool of regional winners. The award recognised her efforts, including her encouragement of other green fingers in the community.
While taking a permaculture course in the early 1980s, for example, Loyola met a teenager who, like his friends, didn’t have a backyard, but wanted to grow vegetables. She subsequently ran an idea past her fellow sisters of the order: should they let the teenagers use a corner of the grounds? The response was yes.
Begun in 2005, before community gardens went from a rarity to a regular fixture in New Zealand, the Common Ground scheme still thrives today. Thirty land-hungry Wellingtonians tend small individual plots and a large communal space, working collectively according to a permaculture ethos. They now have their own toolshed, fruit trees, herb garden and composting system.
Paying her $10 membership levy along with everyone else, Loyola often climbs the hill to see how the other members are going, offering a quiet word of advice when needed.
“Sister Loyola is an inspiration, not just in gardening but in life,” says member Kate Smith, 47."

Credit for the above excerpt with many thanks: New Zealand Readers Digest: Sister Act 

About now seemed like a good time to find a suitable "Goodness Jar".
 I began on the 1/1 writing on little bits of paper: all the good things, the happy memories & moments, the funny things & stuff I am really grateful for. It'll be a wonderful cascade of goodness to tip out again just under a year from now as we complete 2014. 
Well goodness...I am SO grateful for you. I think that I'll pop that on my little scrap of paper & in to the jar it goes!
I've been thinking quite a bit these last few days about the metaphor of compost making & how it could be applied to life. I'll get back to you on that one!
I wish for us all an engaging, thrilling, creative, flowery, loving & satisfyingly memorable year.
I look forward to journeying with you my friends.
Every blessing  & much love Catherine
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