Sunday, 28 August 2011

Celebrating our Successes

Julee's lasting legacy .... a few surprise wooden signs
 hidden around the garden
I have a banner on my wall, given to me by a dear friend, which states: "There is more to life than increasing it's speed" a quote by Gandhi.  So true.  I often glance at it and am reminded to stop and smell the roses.  Sometimes I am too busy to even look at the banner!  
This morning, we awoke to a glorious sun-streaming new day, filled with hope and promise.  After my second cup of organic coffee (did you know that real organic coffee is very  beneficial in clearing out the pipes?), I took a stroll around the garden with my old digital camera.  Usually, so much to do, so little time.............. I race around at breakneck pace, noting everything that needs to be done.  Having just had 2 weeks help from Julee, our German helpxchange, we can afford to "smell the roses" as many tasks have been achieved..    So this morning, I was in no hurry.  After taking 106 photos, I uploaded them and marvelled at our "pre-spring" successes.  Spring time is a frenetically-paced time of planting and planning.    I won't upload all 106 photos............ just a few which tell the story of a garden under metamorphosis.

 Our hothouse, built by Marcus, our German Helpxchange, is chokka-full of succulent lettuces of every shape, form and colour.  Mike is the great salad maker - every night he concocts wonderful tasty salads from the garden - adding baby beetroot leaves, radishes, fresh herbs, feta cheese, olives, sun-dried marinated tomatoes (until we can grow our own) and grated carrot, beetroot and cucumber.  Avo slices are a constant addition on the side.
Rows of lettuces in the hothouse

Mizuna - a great feathery addition to salads

We have just had two curving pathways installed, after much deliberation of what material to use and whether or not we really needed semi-permanent pathways at all.  We settled on a re-moveable, re-usable pathway of concrete pavers, which can be moved and re-used if the whim of change takes hold.  One pathway leads to the washing line, while the other leads to our garden shed, two well-trodden destination points.  Initially we were going to have a concrete path laid, with mosaic inserts but realised that poured concrete is not a sustainable option - it has to be broken up and ends up in landfill if one wants to change it, and is impervious to rain.  The builder did a marvellous job and this will ultimately cut down on our workload of having to weed the pathway every few months.  I'm all for decreasing the speed of life!!  Viva la Gandhi!
Some home-created pavers add interest
Meandering pathway to our garden shed
 Yesterday our neighbour popped an ailing hedgehog, which he found in our driveway, in our garden.  Shayni, our daughter, carefully built him a sanctuary in an old cardboard box, which was then placed in the bath!  She googled "caring for sick hedgehogs" (when they are out an about during the day, they are often sick and disorientated).  She fed him copious amounts of snails and squealed with delight when he drank thirstily from the water bowl she gave him.  Late last night I popped him back in the garden, as I felt he needed to get out into the night.  Guess what I saw wandering around this morning, with no cares for the cat watching him curiously nearby?  Harry, the hedgehog!  So I picked him up and placed him back in his bath sanctuary, after taking his portrait below:

Harry exploring
Harry in self-defense mod
On Monday night we attended a Hare Krishna festival (oddly enough, held in the Catholic Church!).  I am not seeking spiritual enlightenment or a "religious" path at this moment in my life, but if I was, it would definitely be the Hare Krishna path!  They seem to have it sussed - being joyful, singing and dancing with abandonment, and then celebrating life with amazingly delicious vegetarian food!  So unlike the Catholic upbringing I remember.  Sitting still for excruciatingly long moments on hard wooden benches whilst someone droned on and on monotonously, intercepted only by brief episodes of  hymn singing which I never really understood.  I do however, remember fondly watching my grandmother singing with a trilly voice - afterwards I would try unsuccessfully to emulate that trilly song voice.  And I remember gazing at the wonderful stained glass windows - the south side windows showed really gruesome and dark pictures of the crucifiction of Christ but the north-facing windows had sunlight streaming through them and seemed to be much more joyful and light.  Or so it seemed in my childhood memories.  But I digress, this was not meant to be about religion but rather about food!  So, after being inspired, on Tuesday night, I brought out my Hare Krishna cook book and made rice and Gujurati Urad Dal - so easy to make and a simple but nutritious meal, served with one of Mike's wonderful green leafy salads.

Gujurati Urad Dal Recipe:
1 1/2 cups plain yoghurt
1 Tbspn brown sugar
7 cups water
1 cup urad dal (I use mung dal - add an extra 1/4 cup)
1/2 tspn tumeric
2 bayleaves
2 1/2 tspn salt
1 Tbs ghee
1 tspn black mustard seeds
2 dried chillies, crushed
1 tspn fennel seeds
1 tspn grated fresh ginger

Mix yoghurt and brown sugar with 1 cup water.  Set aside.  Clean,wash and drain the dal.  In heavy saucepan, add water and bring to the boil.  Add the dal, bring to boil and cook uncovered for 10 mins.  Remove any froth from surface as you sing with joy in your heart.  Add the tumeric, bay leaves and salt, stir once, cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes over medium-low heat.  Remove bay leaves and blend with stick blender till smooth.  Let simmer 
In smaller saucepan, heat ghee or sunflower oil in pan over medium heat and fry the black mustard seeds and when they pop, add chilli, fennel and grated ginger.  Stir-fry for a moment then pour into yoghurt mix, and add yoghurt mix to dal.  Stir to blend well.  Cook for 5 mins till heated through.  Serve with separate bowl of rice, and drizzle lemon juice to taste.

Easier, they don't get, but very very tasty little meal on a weekday night.

This week I also learned about organic permaculture/polyculture methods of increasing soil fertility and diversity, so yesterday, I spent some time clearing weeds from the orchard area, sowing wildflowers and marking out temporary pathways, which consist of cardboard to suppress weeds, topped with a mulch of leaves or sawdust which we are generously supplied with from a woodworking friend of ours.  Watch this space - can't wait for the wildflowers to grow - the garden comes alive with the buzz and flash of bees and butterflies flitting around, gathering nectar from this food supply.  Oh, and I was delighted this morning to note a little guest had moved into my Bug Motel.  A waspy guy.  Not the usual welcome guest, but I have had my eye on the motel for a while, and occupancy rate has been pretty non-existant for a while now!  I also noticed a bird nest-in-the-making, in my passionfruit vine - hooray, the signs of spring abound!

Orchard soft pathways in the making

Wasp in Room 103.
 So it is with a budding joy in my being that I look around and acknowledge all the blessings that a simple life can bring.  Simple domestic and gardening success ........ sweet, sweet bliss!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Sustainable Health

 So what of health?  How can we be sustainably healthy?  Your child lies listlessly, wracked with high fever and it's nearly midnight.  Chances are that you feel totally helpless.  You long for the night to pass, hoping that your child will cope and you desperately ring for a doctor's appointment at the earliest opportunity the next morning.

For this very reason,  I would encourage every woman (or man) to study a form of healing modality.  At any time in life, there is a high probability that we will feel unwell or even have to deal with disease.
Ha!  That's one of my favourite words - "disease" - it's likely to fill anyone with dread.  But when we break down the etimology of the word, then we begin to understand the origin - "disease" becomes "dis- ease" within the body.  Something is out of balance.  So we don't have to become anatomical professors but rather have a rudimentary understanding of the processes and body systems.  Just like everything in life that causes fear - lack of knowledge.  Knowledge empowers us.  We become the captain of our ship and don't have to always rely on someone else to come up with solutions to our problems.

The window of my little healing room
Back in 2000, I began my journey of studying reflexology.  Suddenly I felt empowered.  No longer a victim.  I could even apply it to myself!  Unlike massage - it is very hard to massage your own back when you are in pain or discomfort.  But with reflexology, simply swing your foot up onto your lap and work away the problem............

Our little family started to rely less and less on trips to the doctor, and more and more, on healing sessions on my little massage table.  This deceptively simple technique had me gob-smacked at the efficacy and powerful turn-around process of healing. And better yet, I could help others too, outside of my family circle.  Funny thing how I started this journey....  I could not fall pregnant and after being told by the leading fertility specialist in my city, that I was a prime candidate for the fertility programme and that I would never (emphatically) be able to conceive naturally, I decided to explore my options.  I started weekly reflexology sessions with a wonderful German therapist - 6 months later, I had conceived naturally!  Never say "never"!  This created a desire to one day study the modality myself and the opportunity came some years later.  I joined the ranks of my family members who had all studied reflexology whilst I was raising my young children - my mother, 4 sisters, a niece, a nephew and an aunt!!  All reflexologists!  You can imagine every reunion would involve reciprocal sessions, comparing notes, stories, pressure advice and love.

 Did you know?  Your feet carry you the equivalent of two and a half times around the equator, during an average life-time??  That a quarter of the bones in your body are in your feet?  That the skin on your feet are more receptive to aroma-therapeutic oils than anywhere else on the body?  Studies have shown that when garlic oil was rubbed on the soles of the feet, it could be measured on the breath 10 minutes later???  Amazing!  The feet tell the story of what is going on in the body!  They show imbalances and dis-ease in the body.  Simple firm kneading and massaging action "press" the healing action buttons to activate balance and a state of health within the body.  Like a Warrant of Fitness for your whole being!

The idea is simple - take care of your feet and you take care of the body.
Oh, and did I mention that it induces such a deep state of relaxation, that you're likely to fall asleep during a session, while you body readjusts itself to balancing out the energy?  Mmmmn.  My kinda healing!  Powerfully simple and simply powerful!
Sole Energy
Of course, doors open and always lead to the next doorway.  Both my husband and I attended a weekend workshop on Shiatsu - a great Japanese pressure-style massage to correct stress in the body.  We also both attended a weekend workshop on Reiki.  Upon finding out about EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which is a form of emotional acupuncture achieved through a series of tapping on the meridian points, I decided against the need to complete further reiki levels as this was such a truly powerful healing tool.  It works to break the emotional attachment we have to pain, physical discomfort or an emotional event or attachment.  Truly liberating.  I effectively EFTed my son's severe dislike of public speaking, my daughter's bouts of severe stomach constriction and pain, my husband's physical discomforts, my emotional attachments and other issues for other people.  

I have a simple brain and one of my mottos is KISS - Keep it Simple Sweetheart!  EFT and Reflexology are simple techniques, easily learned and applied, to great effect!  And of course, my journey has also placed a wonderful teacher in my path - Don Tolman,(, a crazy Cowboy of Ancient Knowledge and Wisdom.  His teaching includes the Doctrine of Signatures of Wholefoods.  Eating foods from nature, especially ones which mimmic visually, the organ or body part that it most enhances and heals.  As Hippocrates stated "Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food."

Manhood enhancing foods - courgette and figs 
We know that putting the right "food" into our car will increase it's efficiency.  We should know a little more about putting the right food into our bodies.  What enhances performance and what disadvantages it and creates a state of "dis-ease".   
Last summer's bountiful harvest - health enhancing foods!

You've all seen the email that was circulated about the signatures of wholefoods, the walnut = brain food (looks like a mini brain and science has proven it enhances the brain's ability to manufacture neuro-transmitters), figs= testes (cut in half, looks like the anatomy of a testicle, like a little sperm bank), avocado = uterus food (cut in half, resembles the female uterus and cervix - with the seed resembling the positioning of a baby - duh! apparently avos take 9 months from blossom to fruit - think nature is trying to drop some heavy clues?).  I could go on and on but you probably already have seen it all and read about it.
Certainly changes the way I view my food each time I stand in the kitchen, with knife poised to cut into some wonderful home-grown produce - as I give a thought to what system or organ I will be enhancing with ingestion.  My medicine is my food.  A sustainable approach to health!

Tomatoes, heart food!  Gotta love em'!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Roll on Spring-Time Bliss!

Garden harvests this week have been slim - citrus, fennel, beetroot, carrots and artichokes.  Mostly root veggies that can withstand the cold temperatures that have even seen the North Island covered in flurries of snow here in Katikati, in Tauranga and even in Auckland!!  We have had about 4 frosts to contend with and the bananas and sub-tropicals look a little worse for the experience!  Tamarillos hang their heads in blackened defeat, banana fronds wave their shredded shards in the breeze and our native ferns look decidedly forlorn.  The grass is orange and browned in patches.   Poor, poor plant cells!
 But on a brighter note, we harvested one of the 5 banana bunches and hung it up in the shed where it will hopefully ripen slowly.  Mmmmn, the taste of fresh organically grown, sweet and pungent bananas will remind us of our carefree days in the blissful sunshine of Rarotonga!  Mike bought 3 coconuts at the supermarket today!  He was so excited to show me what he had found!  They look a little old - not sure if it will be the same as the freshly harvested coconuts on the island of Raro!

Had to upload these photos..... Remember the old black weather-beaten sand-toy boxes from kindy?  Well these are the finished, revamped masterpieces!  We have a wonderful HelpXer, Julee, from Germany, who is keen to try her hand at anything (including a very, very bad Indian accent!).  Given free reign, the finished "antique trunks"  look fantastic!  And they are sooo handy - I can keep all my gardening goodies in one and don't have them rained on and rusted out!  What a thrill to create new things out of old!
Gardening storage box 1

Another storage box to store our outdoor soft furnishings and table cloths.
Along with this cold snap, we are having some stunning warm sunny mid-days.  Filled with the promise of things to come.  How exciting!  I managed to sow some pre-spring seeds.  It creates this little exciting thrill in my solar plexus when I look on the seed trays and know that soon, little green heads of potential crops will appear.  The thrill and miracle of  birth and growth!  Julee has weeded, raked and spread wildflower seeds amongst the orchard and any bare patches of ground - I can imagine the splendour of colour in late Spring, early Summer, as the bees flock to gather their quota of pollen, pollinating our fruit tree blossoms and vegetable flowers at the same time!  The air will be alive with the energy of nature in full flight!  Butterflies, ladybugs and Monarch caterpillars (the good guys who eat only Swan plant fodder).  And the bare soil is spared the ravages of evaporation in the sun by the shade of wildflowers.  It is no wonder they call it Spring - just the mere thought of it brings joy to the heart and a spring in one's step.  
We shall survive the last few weeks of inclement, cold extremes.........  this too, shall come to pass!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Going Troppo

Wow!  What an amazing journey of discovery we have been on!  Just returned from 9 days soaking up the hot tropical sun on Rarotonga, one of 15 islands making up the Cook Islands!  We went, we saw, we bought the t-shirt, fell in love and would love to return!  Island life in winter time, at an embracing 27-28 degrees is what I call heavenly bliss!  Sheer indulgent pleasure!

What grabbed us by the chin was the beauty of the island.  We went with reservations, having travelled to Goa, Bali and Thailand and been bitterly disappointed by the degradation of nature and the pollution on  the beaches. We have learned that brochures DO lie!  However, what you see in the brochures in Raro are exactly what you get!!  Beautiful pristine vanilla fine sands, clear aqua water and swaying palm fronds providing welcome respite from the hot sun (in winter!!).  What unadultered bliss!  I realised how important Vitamin D is for the emotions - it makes me feel naturally high!  Our 18yr old son commented on how his "old folks" seemed to grow visibly younger each day on the island.  I joked at how we were starting to resemble a coconut, brown and hairy, drinking coconut juice and eating coconut flesh and fruit each day!  I think the sun might also have played a wee part in the brown bit!!
Muri Beach

End of another stunning day.

Our wonderful mid-winter break was only possible, in large part due to our sustainable living practices.  Growing our food reduces our living expenses to such an extent that we can make savings and set these aside for travel purposes.  Mike chose the destination - I wasn't too fussed about it, knowing that I would probably be disappointed, much as in Bali and Thailand, with all the pollution and litter everywhere.  I had to eat very humble pie, as I fell in love on the very first day, and the love affair grew and grew daily.................. unfortunately it is not so easy to "immigrate" to Rarotonga, as we found out!  Sad day of disappointment!
Fruit at breakfast time

Passion fruit, starfruit, bananas, coconut and mangoes hiding
Mike booked self-contained accommodation via the internet, and luckily, we were also surprisingly pleased with that too - basic but totally adequate.  We were able to buy a huge stock of vegetables and fruit at the Saturday market in Avarua - bananas, star fruit, passionfruit, coconuts, mangoes, paw-paws and papaya!  A vegetarian heaven!  Our breakfasts consisted of paw-paw drizzled with organic sugar and lime juice, papaya (honey sweet), passionfruit, coconut flesh and muesli with banana sliced on top!  Mmmmn!  In comparison, back home, and this morning I just had an orange as nothing else is fruiting right now!!  We took a 23kg suitcase of food with us, thinking that we may not be able to get much of what we eat - aha, oho!  It just wasn't so!  Prices are a little dearer for staples as they are imported from New Zealand, but there was plenty fruit, veggies and even organic sough-dough breads, croissants, baguettes and crusty white bread, all baked fresh each day by expat English women.
Beach loungers waiting for us each day...............

Beautiful wooden vaka
The people are of Maori descent, and we learned that our NZ Maori left the shores of Rarotonga  during the Polynesian migration, bound for New Zealand.  So although there are similarities, the language and culture is quite different on the island, to NZ Maori.  We met a fierce little old lady, who defiantly scoffed at my attempt to address her in my scant NZ Maori.  She corrected me quick-smart!  I was sure that she would have even considered clipping me alongside my ear for good measure if I had been standing close enough!

Total Unsustainability on the island which shocked us to the core, was the Sheraton Hotel Complex.  I vaguely remember reading about it somewhere and then there it was!  As we whizzed past on our scooter at 30km/p/hr, I spied this huge monolithic complex of greying double storeyed buildings clustered together overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean.  Nature seemed to be reclaiming the site and I just felt the need to explore further at a later stage, so one day, while our teens stayed at the poolside, we motored off on a little bright blue scooter (maximum speed limit in Raro is 50km, and 30km in the villages) to the Sheraton Complex in Vaimaanga, on the south coast of Raro.  A local lady mowing the lawn with a piddley push mower gave us the nod to enter, passed the Private Property!  No Entry! signs and pick our way through the long grassy weeds to gaze in outraged wonder at the massive waste of money, time and resources.  The hotel was 80% built, with a total of 200 luxury apartments, but never saw one guest step over the threshold.   It was  a project started and financed by an Italian company that went belly-side up, taken over by another Italian company, and amidst rumours of Mafia-related corruption and $60 million later, it nearly bankrupted the Cook Islands.  It has twice been taken over for development by New Zealand property developers, once even being renamed as a Hilton hotel but they say a curse placed on the land keeps development at a standstill.   Inside, we saw the units were tiled, corner spa baths with their fancy tapwork lay ominously waiting to be filled, several units had been vandalised, with graffitti and light fittings being ripped out of the ceilings.  There is a central swim-up pool and bar which was completed and now is diguised by vegetation.  It was so sad - a monument to man's greed and folly!

But Sheraton aside, this is one recommendable destination, to get away from it all and to soak up some sunshine in a tropical paradise.  It sure replenishes the batteries for the rest of the winter ahead.
My husband has already booked our next mid-winter break......................