My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden

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Her agile fingers were nimble and never idle when doing crochet


“Can you fix this?” Eldest son handed over his cherished childhood blanket crocheted by his Grandmother more than forty years ago.

Crocheted Blanket

Adult son’s cherished childhood blanket crocheted by his Grandmother more than 40 years ago.

It is with trepidation I eye the repair needed in one of the blanket squares. The decades old wool has frayed at one point and the thread has unravelled.

Knitting Needles

Some of Mother-in-law’s knitting needles used for many a soft toy, baby garment or other knitwear.

My mother-in-law was much admired for her woollen handcrafts. She knitted delicate baby garments on fine needles, soft toys, patterned children’s jerseys. Much of her work was created without a printed pattern. Her knitting needles were always in use.  Her nimble fingers were never idle, her mind ever sharp as she checked tension and mentally calculated size and counted stitches and rows. She also sewed, did embroidery  and crochet work.

The blanket in question I remember being created from scraps of wool accumulated over the years. I remember seeing how a strand of wool,  looping over the fingers of her left hand, was pulled in nimble, quick repeated movements as she plied the crochet hook with the fingers of her right hand. I even did a bit of the crochet work as we chatted though handwork is not really my thing.

Both my now adult sons have kept their blankets and their special soft toys created for them by their much loved Grandma. Her legacy lies in scraps of wool transformed into squares and stitched together with love by her hands. M-i-L knitted well into her eighties. Her fingers and hands did slow up in her last years but she got the item finished.

Crochet Items

Mother-in-law’s crochet hooks and wooden cotton reels studded with four small nails used for a childhood crochet activity.

I sorted through M-i-L’s old knitting needles and crochet hooks. I have been practising and training my hands to do basic crochet work.  The repair will happen. I do not pretend to be deft and quick as my M-i-L when doing crochet handwork. My fingers are not as agile.

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A Screen to Entertain Us


Going to the pictures at the local theatre was an exciting part of our childhood. We were mesmerised by film on the large screen. Musicals, epic sagas, drama and action filled our imaginations with glimpses into other worlds brought to us from Hollywood and England. In the 1950s,  audiences stood as the then national anthem of New Zealand, God Save the Queen, was played. We viewed cartoons and newsreels before making a mad dash to buy ice-cream during the interval and were resettled in our seats to view the feature film.  

After the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, it was a big undertaking for our rural primary school to arrange to take us as a school group to the theatre in town to view a special newsreel showing of this event for pupils of local schools. Still images in print media kept could not compete with filmed sound and action. 

The first time I viewed the small screen was in 1960. A black and white television set had pride of place in my great-grandmother’s home in Auckland. My siblings and I remember we sat riveted by Robin Hood‘s adventures, stories we knew well from reading. We loved the novelty of small screen entertainment in the home. It was to be several years before Mum and Dad thought about buying a television set for our household. The costs of paying cash for a television licence and for a television set were considerable when there was a family to support. The viewing hours and broadcasting coverage in New Zealand were limited in the early 1960s. My brother and I had left school and home by the time my parents acquired their first television set. Probably a wise move on their part. No disputes to settle over which programme to watch.

In February 1966 the average price of a 23-inch black and white television ‘consolette’ was £131, equivalent to nearly $5000 today. 

Time moves on. Retailers display a range of monitors and screens of different sizes that are deemed essential to help us to enjoy our lives to the fullest. Real time viewing happens. Data plans and viewing options are available to suit our needs and wants and we can pay by credit card. I no longer entertain the thought of not having a smart screen in my home and in my hand.  


The Sudden Loss of a Pet Baby Rabbit

New Nest in the Hay Feed Bowl

Sibling bunnies snuggled in happier times in Mama’s dry feed bowl incidentally adorned with a garden art rabbit.

Little Kit

24 October 2017 ~ 21 November 2017

28 days

Mini-lop baby rabbit of Oreo and Paws

Once there were 5 kits. Now there is 1.

Much loved family pet rabbit


It has been a distressing and emotional day. Sudden death of any animal is hard to take. But we live in a rural environment and as the saying goes, ‘where there’s livestock, there’s dead stock’. It is never easy. Over time, we have dealt with the deaths of cats, a calf and poultry. They are never just animals to us. They each had pet names. Grandsons came home from school this afternoon to the tearful reality of the loss of their beloved baby rabbit. The boys had questions. We had questions. How could this happen so suddenly?  

This little bright-eyed bundle of white fur hip-hopped into our hearts. Little Kit suckled Mum and grew fast. From Day 12, Little Kit nibbled at greens and hay and rabbit pellets, just like Mum. Becoming more curious after its eyes opened, the big hop from the confines of the hutch became a regular activity. The sibling kits would snuggle and curl up together after a feed and clean from Mum, on their bedding pine shavings inside the hutch. Life was good for the siblings.

Yesterday, it was life as usual in the rabbit world. Early that evening, Little Kit had a gunky left eye that closed up. It was not interested in nibbling or moving. I wiped the eye with clean cotton pad moistened with a saline solution. That seemed to help a bit. Later the mother rabbit was seen licking her baby. We decided to take the Kit to the vet in the morning thinking it was an eye infection.

Early this morning, Little Kit was a very distressed bunny. It had managed to move from the hutch into the run. I reached to pick it up to check its condition and it screamed. A sound I never wish to hear again. It moved clumsily, was shivering and the eye was clean and half open. Its sibling was snuggling up as if it was trying to be a blanket to warm up its sibling. The mother was licking its baby. The sibling also licked its body. Both healthy rabbits seemed to be comforting and caring the sick baby rabbit. Oreo, the mother, stopped to eat she yet remained close and watchful. This sight was so touching. Heart wrenching.

As I prepared the carry cage for our trip to the vet, I noticed Oreo and the sibling had distanced themselves from the sick kit. It had become floppy and and cold to touch. I picked the kit up and wrapped it in a warm soft rug. The vet said the probable cause of death in the surgery at 11 a.m. was ‘encephalo zoon cuniculi’. It is a nasty condition, common in domestic rabbits, that can be passed in-utero and symptoms can manifest weeks later after birth as has happened today.

The grandsons absorbed the terrible facts and a google search gave more information. Our concern is now for the remaining pet rabbits. We must especially watch the sibling kit.

We mourn a little creature who put life into living and enriched our lives by being. 



We wound back time on a school morning

Single-parent of three, Son had a 5 a.m. workday start. Grandparents were left in charge of getting the boys ready for school. Easy. We know what to do from when Daddy and Uncle were boys.

8.00 a.m. “Aren’t we taking the boys to school this morning?” Poppa and I swing into action. I don’t think we slept in this late when Daddy and Uncle were boys.  Throw some clothes on. Splash water on my face. Run fingers through my hair. Ready!

8.10 a.m. Make wholesome multigrain bread cheese and other filling sandwiches, add a pottle of yoghurt, packet of raisins and fresh fruit to the lunchboxes. “Dad lets us have pretzels in a snackbag” “We’re allowed Snax biscuits.” “I don’t like bananas.” “Don’t want raisins.” “I just had jam sandwiches when I was a boy,” announced Poppa? “Just put your lunches in your schoolbags”.

“All boys need to eat breakfast brain food for learning. Especially as it’s a cold wet morning – I’ll warm the milk”. “I want cold milk”. “Why can’t I have sugar on my cereal? It tastes better.” “See that word sucre on the nutrition information label – it means sugar and there’s 10 grams already in the cereal in your bowl” (7-year old has advanced maths and language skills).  Lesson over. “Yes. You can have a toasted muffin with strawberry jam on it.”

8.20 a.m. “No! You can’t play a game on the computer. Turn it off. Now!” The clock ticks on. The boys are reminded to clean their teeth, to make their beds and to get their shoes and jackets on. It’s pressure time to get to school before 8.45 a.m.

8.25a.m. “We need a dollar today. There’s a Talent Show at lunchtime. A crumpled school notice found at the bottom a schoolbag informs us that ‘it will be a gold coin donation to watch’. I haven’t any loose change but Poppa says he had two $1 coins and four 20 cent coins! “It has to be a gold coin,” argues 9-year old. Conversation  dissolves into the meaning of ‘donation’ and the value of the lower denomination coins. He remains convinced that younger bro will not be allowed in to watch. 7-year old is happy with the arrangement. Of the three boys, he’s most able to argue his way past the doorkeeper.

8.30 a.m. The rain is relentless as we drive down the road. I focus as  while demister clears the windscreen. Then I realise 11-year old has left his Science Fair project display board at the house. “Don’t need it till Tuesday”. “How are you going to work on your project in class then?” “I’ve did my title printout on the colour printer in the classroom.” Memories of 11-year old’s Dad and 11th-hour school projects flash through my mind.  “What about the report on your data? Can you ask your teacher to help you how to write it? Teacher said it’s to be done for homework.”

8.40 a.m. “Have a good day, boys. Love you.” “See’ya, Nana.”

8.43 a.m. Text from Son. ‘How were the boys this morning?’

9.03 a.m. Reply to Son. Okay. Got off to slow start. Learned 11-year old has to finish SF at home. Said he doesn’t know how to write the report. Sounds like kids more interested in designing coloured title printouts.’

Later. Sitting at the table, staring at the remains of the boys’ breakfast with coffee and toast in hand, still dressed in my scruffy gardening work clothes, I’m thinking, what has changed? Nothing really. Those beautifully coiffed and coutured senior citizen couples who flit across our screens and pages adorned with perfectly ordered households and grandchildren aren’t real. Sigh! It’d be nice to step into that picture for a moment in time. But this morning we wound back time but not our biological clocks. No matter what, we’re Nana and Pop. And that’s a precious thing.


Easter Monday evening and “The day is done,”

My mother had a good memory and flair for reciting poetry and as a child it was common to hear excerpts inspired by a moment as she went about her household tasks. How could I not hear Mum’s voice as I shut the hens in their coop tonight and enjoyed the cloud formation lit by the rays of Easter Monday’s setting sun.

When cats run home and light is come,
And dew is cold upon the ground,
And the far-off stream is dumb,

excerpt from: Song – The Owl by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The cattle, sated after a long day of grazing grass, languidly bovine and disinclined to poetic gestures, were settling for the night under the Totara trees by the stream.

The day is done, and the darkness
 Falls from the wings of Night,
excerpt from: The Day is Done by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

No Tennyson’s white owl lives in my world. Gertrude clucked her defiance at my attempts to corral her with the other hens in the hen house. Always there is one last worm or one last slater to find. Tastier still would be my Kale seedlings that now must be grown under bird netting in the new raised garden beds.

So I sit in my garden. And I wait for the white hen to go about her routine. After a busy weekend, it is a quiet reflective moment, a chance to enjoy nature’s celebration of Easter Monday evening.

Five visitors stayed overnight so we have had a full house. There were six kids and five adults in all with one extra person who came to dinner on Saturday. The garden hosted the kids’ Easter egg hunt. Kitted out with torches, the sugar-rushed children ventured into the moonlight to explore the night world in their treehut, in the paddocks, under the trees and along the stream.

Eels transformed into alligators, pukeko assumed vulture-like proportions, deep shadows morphed into monsters and grunting possums grrrrd. Oh! How I just love The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree written by Dr Seuss.




The trees yawn and stretch their limbs to the sun

Early this morning I went for a walk. The cat stopped following me once I left the sanctuary of the garden and sat  down to sun himself by the gate until my return. The chickens gave up following me in disgust because I had no food bucket. A rabbit crouching in the long grass and I startled each other.  A white tail bobbed off at speed under the trees. A bird, hidden high in the branches, made its presence heard. Further along the path, a loud squawk was accompanied by a flapping of wings as a beautifully coloured cock pheasant took flight (or fright) from under the ferns.

No animal life stirred in the stream as the sun gave life to the day and as its fingers of light reached through the trees. Eels have retreated deep into their watery stream bed to dream of their long swim through the rivers to the coast and of their arduous journey to the spawning grounds in the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean. The trees yawn and stretch their limbs and preen themselves in nature’s mirror, readying for another day.

My humble stream moment makes me think of poems by two esteemed and eloquent New Zealand poets

“The sea, to the mountains, to the river” by Hone Tuwhare

“The river in you” by Brian Turner


Spider webs ~ capturing a fleeting moment

About 6.00 a.m., a line of mist hovered along the paddock highlighted by rays of early daylight as the sun appeared over the hills. The awakening moment fogged over as the heavier morning mist rolled in low along the valley, dressing the trees in ghostly cloaks. But, the sun, relentless, rises even more, the fog dissipates and the chooks and cats let us know it is beyond their breakfast time and that we would be reported if food was not forthcoming.

Kitchen food scrap bucket and grains in hand, I walked across the wet grass dotted with small blankets of spider webbing before heading down some steps past the cabbage tree (Ti Kouka) covered with sparkling silky spider webs. My, how the spiders have been busy weaving the night away while we slept. They are hungry and set their gossamer traps to snare the insects that frequent the tree.

The circular webs are delicate and lacy in a way that seems not to be of this world. Dew drops glisten like fine diamonds on the filigree threads clasped to the small branches. I pause and ponder intent on capturing the moments of the morning.

Finally, I remember my task was to feed the chooks two hours ago. The sun has risen well above the trees and it promises to deliver another hot windless day. To a squawk the chooks have voted me the worst hen mother ever! Some busy pecking of the organic wheat and scraps ensues and it is not long before they scamper to scratch for bugs under the trees.  As I return to the house, I notice the spider webs like the fog, have gone.

Poof! A fleeting moment is now a memory.