My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


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Facing Up Takes Courage

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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A Loophole is for a Shoelace

Loophole

I love to read. Anytime. Anywhere. I can get distracted when exercising in the gym which is not my comfort zone. The gardening (a comfort zone) I do can be hard, heavy physical work. I also like to tell people who will listen that I just go to keep Himself company during his post-cardiac programme. However, I digress.

I read the inspirations that urge those of us working out in the gym to strive harder towards a healthier and stronger physical self. I enjoy the wit and subtlety of the memes. Words feature on posters on the gym walls and flash across the screens mounted above the treadmills and  cross-trainer machines.

  • Get started. 
  • Can’t is not a word.
  • Sweat is fat crying.
  • Just do it anyway.
  • Can you kick it? Yes you can.
  • Ora up. You’re alive, but are you living?
  • Fit is not a destination, it is a way of life.
  • The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.
  • There are seven days in the week, someday isn’t one of them. 
  • We do not stop exercising because we grow old, we grow old because we stop exercising.

The nation’s health statistics make for alarming reading. We, the public, are all in this lifeboat together. No matter our age, our (dis)-ability, our health status, our weight, our family and work schedules. Doctors are writing green prescriptions for their patients for a more active lifestyle. 

“What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day, or being dead 24 hours a day?” Randy Glasbergen.

Gym Shoes

Loopholes are for shoe laces

I get the message.

Get to the gym. Get into that gym gear. Lace up those gym shoes. 

No excuse. No escape.

There is no loophole in my workout for life programme.


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Binky Bunny

Baby Bunny, the surviving kit, is five weeks of age. Paws, the father rabbit, has been neutered. Oreo, the mother rabbit, has resumed her bond with Paws, and both live in the larger of the two weather-proofed hutches each with an attached caged run. Baby Bunny is being weaned and readied for departure to a new home in seven days time.

Morning and evening, the three rabbits are let out for a run among the herbal ley under the fruit trees. Leo, our ‘wanna-be predator’ family cat, much to his chagrin, is locked inside the house at this time. It was a leap of faith I would be able to get three rabbits back into their cages. The orchard is a big area and easy for small animals to hide. Initially, I worked with one rabbit at a time. They loped to the other’s cage and sniffed each other through the wire mesh. They made their territorial marks as they explored the potential for rabbit play. Together, they have now developed playful freedom routines.

Binkying Bunny

Binky Bunny’s high jump landing behind Dad

‘Binky’, a new word for me, is a fascinating insight into playful behaviour. I learned from google searches that what our baby bunny is doing is called rabbit binkies. And oh boy, does Baby Bunny love his binky playtime. He leaps and twists. He sprints. He darts in and out of the borage, comfrey and wormwood. He dashes at great speed full circle round an apple tree. He races up to his Mum for a sniff and races off again. His hind paws kick out. Such exuberance. Such fun. Such life. Such joy.

Meanwhile, Oreo and Paws are sedate by comparison. They lope. They explore. They sniff. They burrow at the bases of trees. They nibble clover. They eyeball the hens. They reform as a family group and huddle with their kit. They groom. They stretch out.

Paws has been receptive to being handled and petted. Since his visit to the vet four weeks ago, he is more settled. Oreo has been shy and reluctant to be handled. Since she moved back with Paws, her behaviour has changed. Almost overnight, she seems to be more trusting letting me stroke her, even pick her up for a short spell. Tonight, she lay stretched out on the ground while being quietly scratched behind her ears like we do with our cats. Rabbit bliss.

An urgent call of nature dictated that Baby Bunny, exhausted from binkying, would lunge at his mother, wriggle upside down under her abdomen and suckle greedily for a full three minutes. I timed him. Binky bunny got a goodnight cuddle and settled for the night with a feed of fresh greens and hay. 

Paws, Oreo and Baby Bunny
Paws and Oreo with five-week old kit suckling Mum.


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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


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Preserving tradition ~ homemade jam

We all like to eat well and if you want to eat then learn to cook well. Recipes handed down through families are culinary treasures. In New Zealand when I was a child, it was common to preserve fruit and vegetables, to make our own lemonade. No convenience store down the road for us. Visitors to the farm who turned up at morning teatime quite often stayed for dinner. Food draws people together and it is nice to offer homemade preserves with other food.

Relishes, chutneys and jams that are simple to make, are staple items in my pantry, used to jus up different recipes. Each season, fruit and vegetables ripen faster than we can consume. Home preservation is a practical money-saving activity that I enjoy and the chance to do some cook creative cooking. Yesterday, I turned a surplus of cucumbers picked from my garden into a lightly spiced relish that partners well with cheeses and cold meat. It will not last long in this household.

Surplus fruit gets frozen each season and the cleanout of the freezer prompted a jam-making effort. The raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries, white sugar and pectin smelled divine as the fruit came to a boiling roll in my jam-making saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, I stirred occasionally for the six-minute cooking time.

The low-pectin berry jam recipe has varied a little from my mother’s recipe: 1.75 kg of fruit, 1.1 kg of warmed sugar  and a 70 gram sachet of powdered pectin.

It is a basic recipe. As I had enough berries, I did not want to add more fruit such as cooking apples or crabapples, as Mum usually did, even though they are  high in pectin and jell easily when made into jam. My way to check the jam is setting is to cool a teaspoonful of jam on a plate which should crinkle when pushed with a finger.

I remember my brothers always wanted jam sandwiches for their school lunches. As kids, we all loved the taste of Mum’s newly set jam spread over a slice of fresh bread. There is nothing quite like the flavour of home grown seasonal fruit transformed into a delicious homemade conserve.

 

 

 


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Happy 70th Birthday, Babyboomers ~ say it loud and proud

The Daily Post: Write about something that happened over the weekend as though it’s the top story on your local paper.

The first of the post-World War II babies born in 1946 are turning seventy this month.

Last Saturday, neighbours and friends joined family  to mark Brother-in-law’s (BiL) three score and ten milestone. BiL thought “about sixty people” were invited. BiL is the fifth generation of his family to live in the farmhouse built by his ancestor. The key to enjoying this occasion is to understand the traditions, the echo of a past way of life. BiL prides himself on being able to provide food from the sea and the land. And the beer must flow. It is the way things are done. Sister has been married to BiL for forty-five years. They have two sons and two grandchildren.

Eleven-year old announces the birthday, “he’s going to be seventy and we’re saying it loud and proud”.

“My mother used this pot” said BiL as he placed butchered lamb into the cast iron camp oven to be placed on the embers. How did women manage to lift these large heavy cooking pots? How did they endure the cooking fire heat in the summer like the warm temperatures in the weekend?  BiL, the youngest of five children, recalled his boyhood, living without electricity. “It was my job to split the kindling and get the fire going first thing in the morning and make my mother a cup of tea.”

It was like the clock stopped at the time when people lived off the land and hunted game animals and fished to feed their families. Into another pot went a dressed wild turkey. Older Nephew told me he “shot it up at the Cape”. The cured ham hanging on a hook came from a wild boar hunted in the “bush at the back of the farm.” Potatoes were dug and peeled and salads were prepared. The helpers picked at slices of locally processed salami made from scraps of the wild pork. Older nephew, a commercial fisherman, filleted and marinated the snapper in coconut milk and lemon juice. Earlier, he had dived for scallops and shucked these ready to be grilled. Sister placed seventy candles on the cake.

“It’s a proven scientific fact that people who have more birthdays, live longer.” After midnight the beer and wine was flowing as were the birthday tributes and old stories. The guests had eaten. BiL yarned about the golden summers of his youth about what he and his mate used to get up to. They worked on the land and hunted “without aches and pains”. Fifty years ago BiL could not have imagined how medical technology would replace his hip.

So the Babyboomers are turning seventy. Growing older is a privilege denied to many. Often friends and family have died or moved away. Seventy is a number to clap and count as the candles on the cake are blown out.

Husband told BiL as he handed a gift of aged Scotch whiskey, ”drink it with me, don’t keep it to drink at our wakes.” Celebrate age “loud and proud”.


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Cyclamen growing on ancient steps – if only the flowers could speak

Cyclamen miniatureThe miniature cyclamen growing in my garden reminds me of our wonderful trip on Christmas Eve (2010) to Umm Qais near Jordan’s borders with Israel and Syria. This amazing city was one of a decapolis – ten Roman cities. From there we had fantastic views of the Gallilee, the Golan Heights and the Yarmouk Gorge.

I saw miniature cyclamen growing on ancient steps and stonework. We took in the incredible silence, the deep sense of world events played out here over time in ways that have shaped our modern lives.

IMG_0176Did the people who lived in this ancient city grow and enjoy cyclamens for pleasure as I do? If only the flowers and stones could speak.

IMG_0174