My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


She Flies Out Next Week to Enrol for 2018 Academic Year


The 1970s was a defining decade. Births of children. Stay-at-home parenting. One income household. Mortgage. A traditional, well-trodden life-path. It is what our conservative families expected of Himself and I. It was what our siblings, cousins and friends did. Noises about civil rights and Vietnam War protests channelled into our home in the early years of that decade.  Oil shocks lead to carless days in New Zealand. Politicians geared the economy towards think big projects. Change was happening.

Meanwhile, a message closer to home was being heard by young mothers.  I belonged to a babysitting club with a friend who had a PhD in Science and who worked in a lower paid job than her husband, also with a PhD in Earth Sciences, at the local university. I had had no joy finding child friendly hours working in my former career as a registered nurse. “Why don’t you retrain? Get a degree and go from there,” were her comments. Immediately I named all sorts of the barriers, no childcare etc etc. Could I do it? What about Himself?

Bless him. Himself said words to the effect, “what have we got to lose?” He was able to adjust his hours to glide time. In 1976, youngest son was at kindergarten each morning. The oldest was at school. I had the credentials for free entry into university. Off I went as a part-time adult student. That was scary. At that time, no married adult I knew did what I was doing. I mixed with school leavers, or  younger single people as it were for the next four years. Some of the baby sitting club Mums worked part time jobs in the deli at the new supermarkets.  It was a lonely path at times.

I grew in confidence. I studied fulltime. I achieved A’s. Perhaps it was too easy. I recall one lecturer telling me that younger students did not have the same work ethic. I did not have the luxury of failing papers, of having social timeout. Always, I had to get back for the kids. I had a guilt trip once when my mother worried about Himself having to cook the dinner after coming home from work. Life moved on. I learned how to put issues into perspective. With both boys at school and increasing interest rates, I needed to bring a second income into the household. I qualified to become a secondary school teacher specialising in English and History.

How was I to know during my first, tentative, part-time year at university, that I would spend the next thirty years in education, do postgraduate studies and research. Then, it seemed such a brave thing to do, to break a social pattern. Last week, my granddaughter and I discussed her second year Science and Maths papers  for 2018. It was hard for her to understand what the fuss was all about for me in the 1970s. I am excited about the scope of the options available to her and her ‘varsity friends. Her academic pathway is well-counselled, well-funded, well-socialised and has promising career prospects. She flies off to ‘varsity next week to enrol.

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Trees for Every Living Creature


Trees worldwide deserve our utmost care and attention. Planting a tree, be it in our garden or in a forest, is an action that breathes life the environment. Destroying a tree is an action that disrupts the cycle of life. We are part of a dimension of life that is greater than ourselves. 

Ancient trees are our links to life lived before our time. A tree revered by Maori and of national importance  in New Zealand is Tane Mahuta Lord of the Forest, a 2000-year old Kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest. It was a seedling tree well before people arrived in this country. It is a parent tree that has seeded a forest, creating living habitats for countless lifeforms. It is a taonga, so precious that it, and other Kauri trees, now requires protection from human interaction. Imagine if the father of this forest could speak. What might it tell of New Zealand’s extinct flightless birds that once roamed the forest? What secrets lie beneath centuries of tree litter?

Kauri Tree in Waipoua Forest

Trees give protection from the wind and sun. They soak up carbon from polluted air. They provide food and fuel. Their visual amenity softens harsh urban development.


Magnolia ‘Star Wars’ is about to flower in February! Tree is a visual delight in my garden when in full bloom.

Boundary Shelter Belt Tree

Boundary shelter belt tree Cypress Leylandii being felled because it was overgrown and dying off.

On my lifestyle block, we have had to cull storm felled or old, diseased, overgrown shelter belt trees that crowded our driveway and boundaries. Branches can be hazardous when left as they rot and break off. When we fell such trees, we mulch their branches and make compost for my garden. 


Tree mulch in the compost bin. Another truckload of mulch was added after this photo was taken. Pure garden gold.

My replanting focus has been to choose low growing trees as food sources for beneficial insects and birds. For my garden, I selected fruit trees grafted onto dwarf root stocks which makes them easier to manage. I am protective of the many native Totara trees on our land, several of which are about 80 to 100 years,. They protect the water in our stream.

Vibrant trees provide safe habitats for every living creature.




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I Sympathise with Players Who Wish They Could Use a Wordfinder in Scrabble


Still puzzled? Let’s go back to those seven Scrabble tiles on the player’s rack I posted yesterday.

Tile rack

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

It can be hard to think of a 7-letter word using only one vowel let alone making an 8-letter word using a tile already on the board. If you got it, 333 ‘well dones’.  In competitive tournament games, it is not easy to think of such a word when the timer is ticking down the minutes during a game. However, this was a friendly club game and there was still the pressure to think of a word before the bell rang. For many players, it is hard not to be able to use a word checker. I can sympathise.

Scrabble Game

Pretzels. Word was played across two premium triple-word squares to score 333 points.


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?






Profuse Choice of Flowers

Publicly voiced apologetic effusions are two-a-penny. Verbiage does not feel like real remorse, just more like empty, noisy chatter. 

A hand-picked, hand-delivered floral profusion is gold. Floriography is a quiet expression of words with flowers.

Imagine how noisy the world would be if all the flowers could could talk. Arrangements, be it bouquets or bunches, of colours and perfumes, of flowers and foliage, have long held symbolic associations. Herbage has a floral messaging power. The choice of flowers is profuse.

Dtuch Irises
Brighten up a dreary drain area. Plan to plant more next season.


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.



“there’s no one like Macavity”


I love T.S.Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. “Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,” Who can ever forget this cat burglar extraordinaire?  Hollowed-eyed and unkept, Macavity is never caught in the acts of his nocturnal crimes. Not a paw print is left after he has fled the scene. He keeps his thoughts to himself behind half-closed eyes. Macavity the mystery cat‘s “eyes are sunken in”.  The evidence of his crimes is well-hidden. Macavity just cleverly hides it behind each orbital cavity.  


Macavity the Mystery Cat