My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden

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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’.


The Ages of our Inscrutable Cat


Ignoring the wet and windy weather, a tiny tabby kitten chased the leaves blowing around the enclosed courtyard next to the staffroom. No-one knew how he got there. He was not telling.

I found an old cloth and dried his fur. Next, some cold milk from the staff fridge poured into a saucer, was lapped up with gusto. A box emptied of  five reams of A4 copier paper became his shelter to sleep. There was talk of taking him to the SPCA. After work,  SPCA forgotten and during the 30-minute drive home, this kitten sat on the back seat, never moving, facing forward between the front seats. How was I going to tell Himself that just we had just become parents to another fur baby? After a lifetime of now departed cats, Himself had declared it was time to call it quits. Nestled under my jacket, the kitten peeked out as Himself gave me a hug. Eighteen years later, Himself and Pushy the cat remain constant companions.

T. S. Eliot considered naming a cat to be “a difficult matter” because a cat “must have three different names”. Eldest Grandson was learning to talk at the time the kitten arrived and his word for cat, ‘Pushy’, stuck as the “everyday name” we use. Pushy responded to this name. Whether he cared or not, he was not telling.

Living as we do on a lifestyle block, there are jobs to do. When Himself mixed milk powder to feed four-day old calves, Pushy got the first drink of warm milk. Hay was wheeled to the cattle in the paddock with Pushy in the driver’s seat. Rats have to be kept in check. When electric fences are checked, Pushy never walks never beyond the third tree down the driveway. He will sit and wait for Himself to come back. And someone needs to be Sleeper-in-Chief.

In keeping with Eliot’s rhyme,  

…, a cat needs a name that’s particular,

A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,

Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,

Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

Pushy the Cat

Sleeper-in-Chief annoyed at being disturbed

Over the years, his naming has included Pushy the Farm Cat, Rodent Officer, Pushy the Lazy Tabby Cat. I like to think of him as one of Eliot’s Practical Cats”. I have different  thoughts though when his tigerish tendencies came to the fore if we offend his sensibilities and he digs his claws in.  This is the same cat that protected Binky, the baby rabbit when it escaped from its hutch. This is the same cat that lifted his head when we returned after an absence of almost three years, and wanted to be fed. Cats can be quite difficult to read. We are not always sure of what Pushy is feeling or thinking. He is not telling.

And we will never know. Pushy is about eighty-eight in human years. Grandson’s  old sleeping bag is now his to sleep away his days. His deepest cat dreams and thoughts are beyond words. What is his cat name that he calls himself? He is not telling. Pushy, our old moggy, remains inscrutable.

Old Cat

Constant companions

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Broken Branch a Shock to the Tree


Whenever a tree breaks or falls, I feel a sense of pain. I think about the loss of the ecological habitats and homes to generations of birds and insects. Trees are part of nature’s cycle of life. Cattle rest in the cool shade. The animals stretch their necks to munch the edible foliage and nutritious autumn seed pods.  The tree roots stabilise the soil. Leaves colour with the seasons before falling to be raked into my garden mulch and compost. Ornamental, mature ‘Sunburst’ Gleditsia Triacanthos – Golden Honey Locust and ‘Sweet Gum’ Liquidambar Styraciflua trees, planted before our time here, line the eastern side of our long driveway. 

This week, a humid weather front with north-easterly winds gusting strongly at times, caused a big Liquidambar branch to snap but not sever its attachment to the tree trunk. There it rests, beyond our reach, in a precarious position, weighing heavily across the lacy foliage of a Gleditsia branch now hanging low over our entrance. Our driveway gate is shut for now and a sign, ‘Beware Broken Branch’, hangs on the gatepost.

When a tree is damaged, Himself nips into his workshop to check and fuel his chainsaw in readiness to deliver the cruel and final cut. There is firewood to saw and stack ahead of winter. There is pruning to be done to remove potential hazards. There are some jobs he can do and there are jobs beyond the scope of his chainsaw. The wisdom is to know the difference. Safety is paramount.

Shelterbelt trees

Some of the felled Leyland Cypress shelter belt trees. Lots of firewood.

Leyland Cypress trees once lined the other side of our driveway. Planted close together as a shelter belt before our time here, they were never pruned. They grow fast to a height of thirty metres and become wide-branching. Bark had grown over the fence wires and signs of dieback and wood rot meant the trees were at risk of being felled by high winds. We had professionals do the dangerous work of felling this row of 120 trees. For days, chainsaws, screeched and snarled in loud protest above the low base undertones of the heavy rumblings of the industrial grinding and mulching machine.

Thirteen years later, the tree stumps are rotting into the ground. We had firewood forever it seemed.  Truckloads of  shredded foliage and small branches were dumped to form a large mound of organic matter near my garden area. The resulting compost has since been added to my raised vegetable beds. 

Every tree matters to the world. Their limbs reach to the sun and bring goodness back to the earth for our health. Trees are a litmus test of the state of the health of the earth. I am protective of my trees. I know the trees will have to be pruned. An arborist is coming to inspect the tree damage and other work to be done. I will put my trust in the arborist to prune the overhanging branches with skill and care.


I want healthy trees. I want the trees to heal well after their limbs are amputated. I do not want the trees to succumb to post-surgical shock.   


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

Dr. Suess. The Lorax.


A Loophole is for a Shoelace


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.


Nature Makes Food Delicious ~ quote

“If you do not try to make food delicious, you will find that nature has made it so.”

Tonight at the dinner table as we enjoyed the crispness of tasty steamed green Mangere Pole beans  and flavoursome, vivid blue, heritage Maori potatoes freshly picked from the garden, I realised the truth of Masanobu Fukuoka’s words.

My life is richer for being able to chat over the blogging community garden fences and to swap cooking tips in bloggers’ kitchens as they cook. Anything I know is because others have generously shared their wisdom or resources. Bill Mollison considers that

We’re only truly secure when we can look out our kitchen window and see our food growing and our friends working nearby.

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi  With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive


This is my third 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 these great blogs I follow

Waste-Less Living

Sustainable in Holdfast Bay

Tastes of Life


‘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



‘Teach the People’ ~ quote challenge

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people. – Confucius

Some years ago when I began blogging on WordPress, I was in awe of the creative, the witty, the informative, the insightful posts by writers the world over. I was challenged by my son to extend my writing, to set up a blog, to expand my garden diary scribblings. Never did I think scratching and grubbing in my garden dirt would germinate words of reflection, thoughts about life lived as I know it. My garden is where I lose myself, or as Himself likes to tell others, where I lose either my coffee mug or wine glass. Well at least I do put them on a gate or fence post so they are easily found. It is not as if I drop them in the long grass. Truth is, I need two hands to attend to a garden task. There is always a weed to pull, an insect to watch, a tree to hug, a tomato to taste, beans to pick, a flower to enjoy.

At least it is my words that are being posted these days. Since writing those earlier posts, I feel a certain sense of amazement how my blogging horizon is expanding.  Writing is an art and like my garden plants that grow in happy companionships,  choices of words craft ideas that grow the writer’s voice.  WordPress bloggers are wonderful writers, inspiring to read, witty, sharing, encouraging, causing pause for thought. Learning is ongoing.

And, there is much to learn. My grandsons feature in some posts. As we work and talk, generational garden lore and cooking knowledge is passed on. In a previous life, my framed qualifications show the world I was a secondary school English teacher. A four-walled classroom and a whiteboard is an artificial construct. When thirty or so teenagers with diverse learning needs filled the space, the more I listened, the more I observed my students, the more I learned. They had stories to tell, to write of things that interested them. Shakespeare and poetry had to be made relevant to their lives. Luckily for me we embarked on journeys of discovery and learned together. By the time I left education nearly thirty years later, I felt I might just know a few things about effective teaching practice. From experience comes the lesson.

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:

Ruth’s Reflections 


Chef in Disguise