My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


The Sunshine Blogger Award

screen-shot-2018-02-07-at-4-26-28-pmToday, we stayed indoors because of heavy rain. Small lakes formed in the paddocks as water breached the stream banks. While the ducks paddled and the Pukeko splashed, and to our relief, our dodgy internet sprang back to life and beamed a ray of sunshine into the house. Ann Marie Bryant had left a message to let me know she had nominated me for The Sunshine Blogger Award.

Please check out her site, Ann Marie Bryant, and read her Tales of Family: Finding My Way Home. Having an active interest in genealogy myself, I find her stories of her ancestors make interesting reading. 

The questions Ann Marie Bryant asked me

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?

Knowing I like to write, my tech-savvy son challenged me to start a blog using the scribblings in my garden diaries as prompts. Hence the blog title, showing a distinct lack of originality, My Garden. Writing a blog is quite different to my diary notes where I write for myself.  I have noticed an evolution in my writing style and the ideas I write about. I tend to think of My Garden as a metaphor for my everyday life. It is taking me some time to free up my style and to move on from the formal academic and functional professional writing formats so ingrained over the years. Reading other bloggers’ posts is the best. The breadth of expression and dialogue is enriching. 

  1.  What is your favorite article on your blog?

Mmmmm! My favourite article. Plural perhaps. Anything I write about respecting nature such as how I love that the Totara trees stand in silent witness and about protecting our stream water. And watching the living creatures that act out their antics in our rural lifestyle backyard.  But then I surprised myself with the WordPress prompt, Loophole, and had fun with the memes I read at the gym.

  1. What is one thing about you that surprises people?

I have been caving. Not the tourist type activity. I faced my fear of being in tight crawl spaces. The fun bit was black water rafting.

  1. Who is your hero?

Two women actually. My New Zealand-born great-grandmothers lived during harsh colonial times. One, Pakeha, was widowed at a young age with seven children to care for. The other, Maori, petitioned the government against the unjust confiscation of ancestral land after military conflict. Both women were among the first adult women in the world to vote in New Zealand’s general election in 1893. Voting is a privilege and a civic duty that can be taken for granted. Both these women’s right to vote was too hard-earned to forget. I always vote.

  1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you be?

Hard one for a patriotic New Zealander to answer. I loved living in Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. I love its ancient history. I love the people. I love the food and the culture. Yes. Al Ain it would have to be.

  1. What is your favorite possession?

My wedding ring.

  1. What is the craziest thing you have ever done all in the name of love?

So long ago. Probably defying my Dad to go out on my first date.

My Nominations

 My Questions for You

1. Who inspires you and why?

2. Where is the most relaxing place you have been?

3. What song/music puts you in a good mood?

4. What kind of weather do you like the most?

5. Do you have a favourite quote that you like to share?


Sunshine Blogger Award Rules

  1. Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  3. Nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them  new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or your blog.


In Conversation with 10-year old Grandson

Grandson Number 7 has a certain way of thinking and conversations with him tend to be interesting. We know him to be a deep, independent thinker.

Last year, then nine years old, he convinced his teacher he was a heathen and that he should not go to Bible class at school each Tuesday. The alternative class he wanted to attend was related to Values. It was not for him, he told us at the dinner table. The adults of the family were amused. The dinner table discussion was lively. Did he know the difference between heathenism, atheism and Christianity? And, “no”, he blandly assured his Dad that his decision had nothing to do with his mate being  in the Values class. His brothers were skeptical. He had already written and dated a note for the teacher. His Dad’s signature was needed. Later, he and his Dad had a quiet chat. 9-year old Grandson’s wishes were respected.

Today, one week before the school year is due to recommence, now 10-year old Grandson announced he was a vegan. He wanted to know what he should put in his school lunchbox. We talked about the usual goodies that vegetarians like to eat. “But I’m a vegan”. The adult males of the household smirked and left me to it.

Now to to put things into a context, I make a point of having two to three vegetarian meals a week. I encourage the grandsons to cook with me and to explore recipes in my cookbooks. They understand the fresh from the garden to the table approach. And because Himself is a Type-II diabetic, they have an idea why we talk about reading food labels and healthy eating habits.

This afternoon, Grandson pored over my copy of The Revive Cafe Cookbook 5. “I want this for dinner”, he said pointing to the recipe on page 82 for Indian Sweet Potato Rosti. Good choice, I thought, knowing I had the vegetables and other ingredients and that it would be quick to put together. Grandson floored me by asking if the meal would be gluten free. This from a boy who has no health issues. We started to talk about gluten.

His mind had moved on. He was now thinking about tomorrow night’s dinner. He turned the pages of the cookbook and decided on Lentil Ragout on Potato Mash. His brothers, he reckoned, would not know it was not mince. On second thoughts, he thought that Mega Bean Tacos would be a better choice. He and his brothers love tacos. And because he loves desserts and cakes, he thought the Creamy Raw Fruit & Nut Torte in The Revive Cafe Cookbook 6, would fit the bill. Menu planning done, he raced off upstairs back to his X-Box.

What just happened here? He swore he thought about being a vegan by himself. I am picking we need a chat about the difference between veganism and vegetarianism.  And I know his device time is all about gaming so he does not bother much with google searches. It was the same when Oreo, his pet rabbit gave birth in October last year. The big questions came thick and fast in real time.  I must remember to ask him about what will happen to the yummy eggs laid every day by Strawberry, his pet chicken. I live for these in-depth conversations.

Tonight, the Indian Sweet Potato Rosti were a hit.

Cook and then mash 1 large red kumara. Saute 1 chopped red onion, 1 chopped red capsicum and 3 crushed garlic cloves in 2 teaspoons of oil. Add 1 teaspoon each of turmeric and ground coriander. Add 1/2 cup each of frozen peas and spinach leaves.  Cook for about 5 minutes. I did not add the salt. Combine onion mixture with the kumara mash. Shape the mixture into balls and flatten a bit. Fry about 2 minutes each side. Serve with a green salad and sweet chilli sauce.

Dessert was fresh fruit only.

I will hold off making the torte until we have a special occasion. I am thinking to make some bliss balls for lunchbox snacks. No. Better still, Grandson can make them.

We will have the tacos later this week. I will get Grandson into the kitchen and he can cook the dinner. Conversations happen when we work together in the kitchen.





Birds Warble and Whistle and Trill


Birds in one way or another, grab our attention. I often stop what I am doing when gardening and I will just stand and listen.  Perhaps that is why my garden is still a work in progress. I listen to the bird sounds around me.

I hear the distinctive warbles and whistles I associate with New Zealand’s well-known and common small native birds that dwell high in our Totara trees. Staccato squawks are heard from the birds that nest in the paddocks or on the streambank. The thrushes sing melodiously from their perches on branches and fences and their songs are delightful to hear. The birdsong is prolific early in the morning, the sounds combining to produce a rousing chorus. Their day has begun. There is bird work to do.     

Back inside the house away from the midday heat, a Fantail joined us, flitting through the house, cheeping and peeping as it hunted flies. 

Day-old chicks inside the nest

Pukeko nest in the paddock

We hear strident screeches from the paddocks and the streambank as Pukeko and Spur-winged Plovers engage in aerial combat with a circling, predatory hawk silently intent on finding a fledgling in a grassy nest. A flock of five magpies added their cacophony of a harsh discord to the sound mix. 

The hens clucked quietly as they pecked at  their night grain feed before roosting. Some birds were still twittering in the nearby trees. Later when it is dark, Pukeko will continue to sound out with occasional noisy outbursts. The iconic moooorpoooork call will echo through the night as Morepork, the New Zealand owl, flies through the trees and the hills.

After dinner, at the end of another very hot summer day, Himself and strolled up our rural road. No traffic. No streetlights. House-lights dot the countryside. Hilly ridge-lines are silhouetted against the glow of distant urban lights. It is a still evening. There is not a sound, not even a bird trill.

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Oreo the mini-lop rabbit gives birth

Tuesday, 24th October is a date when I would like to have been proven wrong about the saying, breeding like rabbits.

Oreo Mini-lop Rabbit

Oreo feeding on dandelions and fresh grass

In my previous blog about Paws, mentioned how excited Grandson at the arrival of an unexpected second pet rabbit and how his Mum said she had got Oreo ‘not long ago’ from the S.P.C.A. and that because she was so young,‘things should be alright’.

Paws and Oreo are parents

Kits cocooned in Mum’s downy fur

Oreo, a mini-lop rabbit, gave birth to her first litter of five kits about midday. She showed strong basic instincts in her preparation for the birth and mothering.

She had tried digging a burrow from the cage. She had plucked fur from her lower abdomen to make a soft downy cocoon for her babies in the straw nest created some days earlier. In this way, Oreo exposed her nipples ready to suckle her kits.

There was a time lag of about three hours between the birth and when we were able to separate the new mother and her kits from Paws, the father. Too late, I think. Oreo is probably pregnant again. 

Mother and babies are doing well.


ANZAC Day 25 April, “We will remember them”

Flanders poppies grow among the graves of soldiers who were killed in northern France. Grandson learned about 100 years of ANZAC history and in 2015, applied his knowledge to create a poppy remembrance garden for a school agricultural project.

Grandson knows 25 April is New Zealand’s national day to remember those fought and who died serving New Zealand during times of war. He knows his great-Grandfather fought in WWII and his ancestors fought in WWI.  He knows that in 1915, Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Gallipoli in Turkey, the site of New Zealand’s first major battle of World War One with the loss of over 2,700 New Zealand soldiers. He knows that since the first commemorative services in 1916,  Kiwis attend ANZAC services across the world, from dawn until dusk.


My childhood ANZAC commemoration memories are of services held over the years in the local rural community hall, of the silent stillness of the local people watching, moved by the drummer’s tapping accompanied by the tramp, tramp of the veterans’ feet  as they  marched in formation down the road past my grandfather’s house. I see the New Zealand flag fluttering at half-mast in the breeze. I hear the collective voice of my family, my neighbours, my community as we uttered in unison the words, “we will remember them”.  I hear the bugle sound the Last Post  at the close of our lament for the dead.

After the service, people linger. 25th April is a day to be together, to share, to retell stories.

I see my grandfather standing in silent respect, and later in conversation, he would tell that as a married man with children, he was a reservist and he managed his younger brothers’ farms while they, keen to “do their bit for King and country”, enlisted early in 1915, one of whom was ‘never the same’ after returning home from gas and trench warfare.

I see my great-Aunt, church organist and community stalwart, widowed in the early 1930s, childless and never remarried, after her husband, a WWI veteran turned to alcohol to fight his traumas and to die by his own hand.

I see my mother among a group of other war-brides, chatting about their families ‘back home’, recalling the bombing raids and rationing in wartime England, and I know that her Uncle lies in a marked grave in northern France.

I see Dad standing with an older local couple talking about his mate, their son who in WWII  was a prisoner of war with Dad, and who was shot in a camp. In 1992 at Dad’s funeral, the youngest of the three brothers in that family, delivered the eulogy. In part, he said

After my brother was killed, Ken arranged his funeral and then reclaimed his personal possessions. He carried them with him on that infamous forced march into Germany, and as soon as he arrived back in Walton he gave some of them to my parents. Years later when he felt, the time was right he gave the rest to me. I asked him why he had not thrown them away when he was enduring such extreme hardship himself. He replied, “I looked at them sometimes and thought I’ll do that tomorrow. Tomorrow never came.” Ken proved to our family that he was a true and loyal friend.

No-one ever forgets.

Over time in college, at university and as a teacher, I thought further about the pointlessness and horror of war through the words of poets like Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est.

The Kiwi voice heard in the poem An Elegy for an Unknown Soldier written by James K. Baxter, son of conscientious objector Archibald Baxter, tells the story of a young nation sending antipodean troops to a theatre of war in a distant country, of painful personal realisations and of the futility of war.

An Elegy for an Unknown Soldier

There was a time when I would magnify
His ending; scatter words as if I wept
Tears not by own but man’s; there was a time.
But not now so. He died of a common sickness.

Nor did any new star shine
Upon the day when he came crying out
Of fleshy darkness to a world of pain,
And waxed eyelids let the daylight enter.

So felt and tasted, found earth good enough.
Later he played with stones and wondered
If there was land beyond the dark sea rim
And where the road led out of the farthest paddock.

Awkward at school, he could not master sums.
Could you expect him then to understand
The miracle and menace of his body
That grew as mushrooms grow from dusk to dawn?

He had the weight, though, for a football scrum,
And thought it fine to listen to the cheering
And drink beer with the boys, telling them tall
Stories of girls that he had never known.

So when the War came he was glad and sorry,
But soon enlisted. Then his mother cried
A little, and his father boasted how
He’d let him go, though needed for the farm.

Likely in Egypt he would find out something
About himself, if flies and drunkenness
And deadly heat could tell him much – until
In his first battle a shell splinter caught him.

So crown him with memorial bronze among
The older dead, child of a mountainous island.
Wings of a tarnished victory shadow him
Who born of silence has burned back to silence.

by James K. Baxter


Drat! Rats!!!!

“We must”, I proclaimed to Himself as I handed him a mug of coffee, “reset the rat bait stations”, hoping in vain the Man of the House would leave off watching the replay of New Zealand’s Cricket XI Captain Brendon McCullum’s record-breaking fastest test century while batting against the Australians, and do the honours. You get the picture. Weekend sport, replays and all, is a sacred couch cow.

I mentioned in my previous post about a couple dead rats being an unpleasant fact of life and I couldn’t bring myself to take a photograph. Irrational, illogical, I know, I know. Indeed, and if you really must view pictures of Norway ‘black’ and Ship ‘brown’ rats, then google or click on the ‘pest’ link. It’s an ongoing battle against these pests that want the yummy food we put out for the chooks. We have predator proof netting the chook house, but there is the giveaway sign, the tunnel. I shudder.

What am I scared of? It’s only a rodent. Or is it a family of rats? I hate looking at them. What am I going to do if it jumps out at me? I’m such a wimp. I grit my teeth and shudder. You can do this. “If I have to I can do anything … I am invincible I am woman”, Helen Reddy sings in my mind as I don plastic gloves and collect the rat bait. I grab a heavy spade, for just in case.

I can’t think of a single redeeming ratty feature to commend this verminous creature.

  • Rats eat plants and fruits, destroying food sources of native wildlife
  • Rats plunder nests and eat chicks and eggs
  • Rats gnaw, damaging buildings, power cables and water pipes
  • Rats predate small native ground creatures
  • Rats contaminate fresh water
  • Rats transmit disease to humans
  • Rats scavenge on human waste
  • Rats tunnel, climb and hide
  • Rats cost me time and money
  • Rats are not nice to look at
  • Rats exist

I put the poison in the bait station. As I move forward to position the bait station under the chook house, my foot sinks against a tunnel concealed by grass. Horrified, I step back and stand in another tunnel. Geez!! Is there no end to this! I pull a clump of weeds and see the trail disappears under the overgrowth smothering the disused chicken cage. No rats jump out. Now, I feel stronger. I am doing this. ‘No’ to rats!

Himself has left the couch and ventured forth to give a helping hand. Together,  we each take a corner and lift and tip the cage up and out of the long grass.

With perfect theatrical timing, Rattus rattus leaps out of the cage. Seconds of confusion prevailed as Himself, spade in hand, and the rat play a deadly game of chase, while I, weakly in stereotypical female fashion, beat a hasty retreat.

Life’s not always a bowl of peaches in my garden.


‘I speak for the trees’ ~ quote challenge

I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.  Dr. Suess. The Lorax.

We happen to share our place with many Totara trees, some about 80 to 100 years old and still growing. We are mindful of our custodial responsibility. Trees have deep meaning reflected in Maori forest mythology a site where Maori have many whakatauki or sayings that use trees as metaphors.

Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness, wrote  Kahlil Gibran.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy at the end of his address to delegates at the Anniversary Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences, told what the French Marshal Lyautey said to his gardener:

“Plant a tree tomorrow.” And the gardener said, “It won’t bear fruit for a hundred years.” “In that case,” Lyautey said to the gardener, “plant it this afternoon.


I could not decide on one quote hence I include three in my second challenge post. Thank you Carol  for nominating me for a three-day quote challenge. Please check out Carol’s Food For Thought post at

In the fun spirit of voluntary participation of the challenge, nominees may choose to

  • Post for three consecutive days
  • Posts can be one or three quotes per day
  • Nominate three different blogs per day

 Please check out my nominees’ wonderful blogs:

Keith Garret Poetry

Ockham’s Razor

The Lemonade Chronicles