My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


Facing Up Takes Courage


Three years ago, Grandson and his classmates were taken through a programme at school to stop bullyingThese students now know how to name the different ways bullying can happen: be it physical actions, digital comments or spoken words, threats, body gestures and excluding or blocking. Many children are fearful on a daily basis because they are being bullied. There is a way forward. There are actions that can be taken and words that can be spoken to suit the different situations. The students learned such strategies as how to “report it” and how to “speak up and stand up for yourself.”

A strong yet simply worded message to bullies said their behaviour is “not ok.” What a bully says and does hurts others. Bullying is abuse. Friendship is no excuse for ignoring and doing nothing about hurtful words and harmful actions. Friends unwittingly enable bullying by not challenging and denouncing the hurtful behaviour. Bullies have lessons to learn about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. They need to find answers to explain the ‘why’ they do what they do. How they would feel if it happened to them? Who could help them through the process? They must face up and ‘fess up.

The transition from a rural primary school with 300 students to a city school with over 1,000 students is a big change. In conversation with Daughter-in-law, wife of Number 1 Son,  the topic of bullying came up. D-i-L felt both her son and nephew, my 12-year old and 13-year old Grandsons who are both in the same year level at the same High School, and their mates have the confidence and the ability to cope with the challenges of new peer group pressures. She added these boys, in their own ways, are articulate and she has seen them confidently reject crappy behaviour.

My initial thought is that the school programme belongs beyond the school gate. As a family, we do talk. Number 2 Son’s insistence on family having dinner together at the table is a step in the right direction. Talk happens and no subject is taboo. But, listening is good too. Himself realises that what happened in his day, when boys physically settled their differences out of sight, is not what happens now. The harden up attitude is no more.

Beyond the family, social policies and programmes that address attitudes towards and the prevention of violence are a vital part of public education. Abuse victims feel crippled by fear. When can they ever feel safe? When an inspiring leader steps forward and is inclusive and has genuine empathy for the well-being of all people, then there is some hope. Schools are doing their bit towards preventing bullying. Families become involved. How brave are our now politicians? They need to have a voice that rings true. A voice that resonates, “I’m here for you. I’m listening.” Can they look beyond their next election prospects? Or do we wait for my Grandsons’ generation to make a difference?

It is not a soft option to meet, to talk, to listen, to question. It is a sign weakness to resort to physical means. It is not a sign of weakness to own your words and your actions. It is a sign weakness to blame and to lie. It is not a sign of cleverness to make personal put-downs. It is a sign of friendliness to show kindness and respect. It is empowering to tell the truth. It takes strength of character to do what is right. Facing up takes courage.

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Rube is Not the Word to Describe My Neighbours


 Census 2018 is on my mind. New Zealand is about to count itself.

Our dwelling details will be designated rural. We will count our hens and our cattle. I guess we will explain again, our septic waste and water supply systems, uses of buildings and land. No doubt we will list our gender and our levels of education and income. Who knows what other questions will be asked. Our feelings and views will not be canvassed. Data will show we are neither feather-brained nor bovine in outlook. Such questions are designed to elicit data to give an overall statistical snapshot of people who live in the countryside on Census 2018 day.

What I do know, is that the tally of rural residents living on our country road will show our neighbours’ occupations as: accountant, builder, commercial hydroponic rose grower, dairy farmer, engineer, horse breeder, industrial chemist, land developer, nurse, policeman, retiree, school bus driver, school principal, stay-at-home parent, student, urban business owner, web developer. And what I also know is that these neighbours have busy workdays and busy weekends. 

We affect to live a rustic lifestyle just fifteen minutes drive from the city. To some, country living may seem unsophisticated. Sunhats, jandals, gumboots are not fashion statements. They are practical items that suit the living on the land. Old-fashioned he may be, our neighbour persists  year-round in true Kiwi style by wearing a singlet, shorts and gumboots as he goes about his jobs. We all wear gumboots as the preferred footwear when the soil is saturated after rainy downpours and when we struggle in flooded paddocks to save wrecked fences. 


This time a post had to be pulled out of the water.

In stormy weather, a work gang forms and men rev their chainsaws and tractors to deal to a fallen tree blocking the road. We are able cook up a one-pot meal over the woodburner or gas-fired BBQ during a prolonged power outage.Our gender, our educational levels and occupations count for nothing at these times. Neighbourly commonsense and cooperation matters. These are the same people who on Monday morning, switch to their sophisticated urbane selves and dressed in their city clothes, head into town to their places of work. 

But back to the word prompt for this post. Getting started was the hard bit. What content could I use on which to peg the prompt. I consider myself to have a good knowledge of the meaning and use of the English language. As a competitive Scrabble player, I pride myself on a quick recall of words. How could I have not come across this word? Awkward.

First I thought maybe the word had something to do my birthstone, that precious, blood-red coloured gem, the ruby. Shakespearean quotes came to mind. After all, there are many rub- words associated with red and rubies that evoke emotion and symbolic meanings. Then there are these proverbial words,

Who can find a virtuous woman? for Her price is far above rubies.

Next, I wondered if I could play around with the shortened version of a given name like my Great-Aunt Ruby or a man’s name like Reuben. Both names feature in lyrics of well remembered songs but yielded few writing cues.

Feeling ignorant, I broadened my word meaning search. It was American dictionary time. Hayseed to me is something that falls from a dried grass stalk and is often the cause of a seasonal allergy known as hayfever. Hillbilly, not really in this country. Yahoo or lout, maybe the young guy who 360s at the intersection or weaves his vehicle at speed through the designated 55kph corners of the windy stretch of downhill leaving black tyre marks on the road surface. 

Finally. Got it. This has been an exercise of making sense of cultural use of words to express ideas.

Rural voters were tired of being treated as rubes by state officials who showed interest in them only at election time. 

The word definition and its use in the sentence imply prejudice, a put-down, a negative viewpoint of rural folk. I am word wiser now.

Reminder to self. Memorise the 4-letter Scrabble word list. There are only two hooks, -l and -s, for the word ‘rube’.


Caterpillar Chrysalises in My Garden

Each morning when I feed scraps to the hens before letting them out into the paddock for the day, I hang around to deter the wild ducks from flying in for a free feed. I use this time to check out what is happening my vegetable garden. The To Do list gets longer.

Bumblebees are busy workers. Busier than me in this humidity. The garden looks neglected, shabby and straggly. The Hyssop stems were flattened in the recent stormy weather. Oregano and weeds jostle for dominance under the Scarlet Runner beans. Higher than usual summer temperatures and storm damage wreaked havoc a few days ago. My sister swears she can hear the invasive kikuyu grass following behind her as she pulls weeds. She has a point. Grass growth and garden weeds are rampant in this humidity.

Earlier crops of kale , turnips, tomatoes, cucumber and green beans have self-seeded and the hope is no-effort vegetables. That is a good garden story. Strawberry runners are growing like triffids. The blackbirds make a mess as they scratch up young plants. They flee the crime scene leaving half-eaten tomatoes on the vines. These were not the birds I had in mind when I planted flaxes and native plants to feed native birds and beneficial insects. Such is life in this rural lifestyle neighbourhood. Nature rules.

On a positive note and still on the subject of nature, the Monarch butterflies have been active in the garden. They made a pretty picture in January. Butterflies flitted about and laid their eggs on the Swan plant. The growing caterpillars have since eaten every leaf and are now devouring the seed pods. Food for these colourfully striped creatures is a priority. Today, I went on a rescue mission and transferred caterpillars to seedling Swan plants. I found predatory wasps had made a nest on the plant.  That had to be destroyed manually as spray is harmful to the Monarch caterpillars.

Delicate green and gold trimmed chrysalises also hang in the clump of lemon grass growing nearby. There is a certain delight in being able to observe the natural cycle of caterpillars metamorphosing into butterflies. There is a certain satisfaction knowing beneficial insects are thriving in my 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.


8-letter Word to Play. Puzzled?


It is not often a Scrabble Club player gets the chance to score over 200 points in Scrabble. Power tiles, Q and Z, are worth ten points and, if placed well, make a valuable addition to the player’s game score. By using all seven tiles on the tile rack, it means the player will get 50-bonus points in addition to the word score. The Scrabble board has double and triple hotspots which if used well, also add points. As with all word plays in Scrabble, players need to be able to hook their word to a tile already played and form a second word. In this way, more the points can be scored.

About two years ago, one of our novice club members had the seven tiles as shown in the image below. She asked another club member, a New Zealand expert ranked player, for advice. We do not use anagrammers or any wordfinder devices during our club day games. We play by NZ Scrabble Association rules. So, it is just us as the players faced with the challenge of the tiles.

Tile rack

Player had these seven tiles on her tilerack. There is an 8-letter word that can be played using all these tiles.

After pondering the board layout, deep thinking and much tile shuffling, an 8-letter word was placed to score 333 points.

Scrabble Game

Club Day Scrabble game in progress.

Later, our expert player reset the board and tile rack and got the rest of us to make the word. Yay! I did it. Can you? Remember, no word devices or anagrammers. Puzzled?






Conveyor of a Wordless Message


Drivers are advised to adjust their speed to suit the conditions. On a windy stretch of road on my way home, I see a road sign that reads, ‘100 is NOT a Target’. Speed is a safety issue on our roads. Sadly, there have been fatal crashes near the intersection where I turn off this busy main road.  

A New Zealand Transport Authority driving safety advertisement appeared on television the other night. We walk with the Traffic Officer who talks to us in simple, billboard-like terms, as he goes about his job. Ordinary people will say they know their local roads well enough to drive that bit faster.“ I know these roads,” the Officer says to us.

The Officer has a wordless message to deliver. Deaths and injuries place an unbearable grief on loved ones and extract a terrible price in other ways on the community. He is the bearer of bad news to a family. Her pain speaks for itself.  And there are no words he can say to us in his role as the conveyor of the campaign message.


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Flower Power to Evoke


Miniature Cyclamen

Naturalising under a tree in my garden

Naturalising under a tree in my garden

Naturalising under a tree in my garden in subtropical New Zealand, is a miniature cyclamen that flowers each spring. It is a commonly grown plant. There is a long history behind the journey of this plant to my antipodean world, a plant growing in a country far removed from its ancestral origins in Middle Eastern climatic and geographical environment.

Deeply interested in history, we were blown away by the magnificence of the archaeological sites during our travel in this part of the world. In December 2010, we took a day trip to Umm Qais or Gadara as the Romans called it, in northern Jordan.

We stood in awe amid the silent ruins. The excavated structures story how people lived, how ancient world events played out in Greek and Roman times, and in ways that shaped our modern world lives. We looked out towards the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee, acutely aware of modern tensions in this region.  We ambled along streets with Roman chariot wheel ruts grooved into the stone pavers. We explored buildings. We climbed steps. It was then I saw a familiar sight.


Miniature cyclamens growing on steps in the ruins at Umm Qais in northern Jordan. Dec. 2010

Miniature cyclamens growing in the cracks on the ancient stonework. Colourful and neglected, a botanical and peaceful echo of long ago times, tenacious survivors in a harsh growing environment. A floral link between the past and the present, the tiny flowers had the power to evoke in me a moment of longing to return to my garden.

How did the people who lived in this ancient city regard and use this plant? Did they enjoy cyclamens for pleasure as I now do? If only the flowers and stones could speak.