Sunday, 27 October 2013

Bound by Boundaries

Om, mine, padme hum........... om Shanti!
Give me Peace and Good will, and patience!
So what do you do when you have been living in your home for about 6 years and then Bam!  One day,  out of the blue, your once-friendly neighbour informs you that you have some land belonging to him?  When you ask for clarification, he points over the low-slung wire boundary fence, to about half a meter in and says that there once were boundary pegs there and you are accused of having moved them.

Well, you wonder how much dope he's been smoking, and laugh it off as you walk away shaking your head from side to side.

Am I  going crazy, or what??
One and a half years later, he is still going on about the boundary pegs, so with frustration, you might say, well, when we moved in here, this fence was already here..... if there was a boundary issue, the previous owner and land agent must have forgotten to mention it.  And IF there were boundary pegs here, you would wonder what the hell they were for and probably would have pulled them out.  But you don't remember, because this was never an issue you were aware of before.

Then your neighbour starts to accuse you of definitely having moved the boundary pegs - because you have just admitted it - "you said, if you had found pegs there, you would have moved them".  And in that event, he says, he will be reporting you to the city council, who will be coming to fine you as this is an offense.  He pins big aerial maps of his house onto the fence, with great big angry red arrows to indicate where the boundary is.  Now in your defence, you've tried several times to talk this over, and showed him the surveyor map you'd kept as a record.  He does not want to even look.  Somehow, his map is the proper one, even though it seems to indicate the very same fence-line as the boundary.  In his head, there is another imaginary boundary and it is within your piece of land!  The nicer you are to him and the more you try to reason with him, the more angry he becomes.  He thinks you are being nice to simply annoy him.
Neighbours boundary map pinned to your fence
So all this becomes rather nasty and at every opportunity, he aggrieves himself of the issue - and others come along too.  He starts to complain that you have chickens - and as you feed the chickens, it encourages house sparrows to come and eat the chicken food.  The sparrow then fly up onto his outside verandah and poop on the chairs and floor.  It is the fault of the chickens you keep.  So humbly, you apologize for the sparrow poop and you appease him by agreeing to move the chicken tractor to some distance away from the common boundary.  You also demolish half of the lean-to shed which was built before you bought the land, which comes right up to the fence-line, so when the Council does come to fine you, and show you how much land you have to return to the neighbour, then the land is ready to hand over.

Then one fine day, he growls viciously at you , clenching his fists, face the colour of beetroot.  Why, he asks, have you not stuck to "the agreement".  Which agreement you ask wearily.  The one which involves the hedge you've agreed to cut.  Oh, which hedge, you ask in puzzlement, as you are not aware of owning a hedge.  He thinks you are toying with him and so he fumes and one can almost see the steam exude from his ears as he tries to keep his lid from blowing and indicates with his head in the direction of the hebes.  Oh, you mean the hebe bushes (well, now I see that they have grown close together in some semblance of a "hedge" but I never really thought of them as a hedge before this point was made!!) You say you don't recall any agreement.  What exactly is the problem?  It is not illegal to grow a hedge, is it?

Still fighting to stay in control, he speaks dangerously low and says we need to maintain it.  So later, after he has moved indoors,  you peek over your fence to view the unruly hebe shenanigans on his side and have a laugh to yourself.  If the hebes poke 10cm over onto his side, it's a lot.  I am flummoxed by this conundrum. His apple and plum tree all lean about 1 1/2 m over the fence onto our side!!  So where's the fairness in that, you wonder?

Your spouse wants to sort it out - you stubbornly say - let the neighbour - it's HIS problem, let HIM find the solution!  Anyhow, the neighbour keeps on saying that you'll be fined, that the council are coming to fine you (never have, even though you waited patiently for them for a year and a half) and that it would likely cost the neighbour $500 to call in a surveyor (which he never did).
Leaning over into neighbour's zone, this is how much the
 hedge on the left is encroaching on his side!

This is the neighbour's tree on the right hanging over
our side - I never would have thought it a problem!
A green screen provides privacy and I welcome that!
Enough, says your spouse!  I can't take this stress anymore!  The guy is clearly crazy.  We will get a surveyor in and hand over any land rightfully belonging to him!  You try to reason, no, why should we.  It's his problem, let him solve it.  He's been talking about getting a surveyor for ages.  But your spouse waits no longer and arranges for one to come, making sure the neighbour is present.  After 2 hours (and an ensuing bill of $350), the surveyor declares that the fence is exactly on the boundary.  The mullet-guy neighbour mumbles something about having to accept that as correct then.  He says he was under the impression that there were some pegs on our land and he assumed they were the correct boundary, even though he allowed the previous fence to be erected where it currently stands!  And as for an apology - well, don't hold your breath!  This guy will never have the strength of character to apologize for all the stress he has caused you.
The fence!  De-fence!
But then you have just a small trick up your own sleeve - you send him a letter stating that he is eligible for half the survey cost (but again, don't hold your breath) seeing as he was willing to pay $500 for one and you have graciously shared in the cost, and if he would like to pay something toward the erection of a 1.8m fence, he is welcome, and if not, the fence will be going up anyways!  That way, he will never have to see your ugly face ever again!
A serious looking spouse standing next to a 1.8m
boundary fence for measuring against the hebes.

The hebe "hedge" which stands roughly at 1.8m

Hmmm.  You sent the letter went off a few days ago, registered mail.  Can you imagine the colour of his face with all the poppy-out veins of neighbourly love!  It is good to have tried so hard to maintain good neighourly vibes........... just does not work when there is a common boundary sometimes!  Especially one that does not provide with absolute privacy!

Neighbour's trees overhanging the common boundary

What hope for Palestine???  Or World Peace, for that matter?

Post Script Update:
Our letter informing our neighbour of our intent to erect a fence was met with total silence.  Not a word.  In fact, he kept such a low profile for 5 weeks, that we never saw or heard him at all, at all!  I think 'tis coz he might have feared being asked to contribute his part.  Nothing to date of any payment at all.  I had hoped he might have some mana (Maori for respect/ self worth/ gift - hard to translate).  So the fence went up - it looks fab and gives that extra sense of security and safe haven.  Blessed be those with high fences to keep their mad neighbours at bay!

3 zinc-alume panels break the monotony of the wooden fence.
Methinks me might sow some wildflower seeds along the fence to soften the lines now...
PostScript 3.01.14
No money received to date, toward costs of solving neighbour's boundary problem.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Reflections of the garden in the shed window
What's happening in the garden mid-October?  Quite a lot, actually!  I have been harvesting heaps of silver beet to make smooth-pureed pasta sauces before they have to be uprooted for my tomato plantings.  Lots of parsley, and artichokes starting to flower and feed us wonderful exotic French fare!!  I have learnt how to handle these buggers after several impalings on the nasty little prickles of the leaf edges.  Now I carefully cut them, holding the bottom, then cut the sharp little prickles off the leaf edges with secateurs.   Place them in a big pot, add a little water and boil them for about 20 minutes.  Serve with a couple of bowls with olive oil, chopped garlic, lemon juice and soy sauce.  Delissimo!

Sharp little spikes that bite!

Shhhhhh, the beans and peas do sleep
A makeshift tent to keep the frosts off - just removed it yesterday and they
are doing fine.

The last of the last season's green leafy crop soon to make way
 for tomatoes.
Since this photo was taken, I have set up a trellis for cucumbers and stuck several thick bamboo stakes in the ground for tomatoes.  I have planted 6 Roma (acid-free) tomatoes - good for cooking and for sauces as there is very little seeds and pulp.  In the other "fruiting" bed, there are 6 Yellow Pear tomatoes - a small droopy sweet fruit, suitable for salads and snacks.  I have a few trays of other small tomato seedlings - brandywine (old heritage variety that grow large and convoluted at the top) and moneymaker.  Tomato plants excite me in every way! They have such amazingly resilient seeds that can stay in the compost till conditions are viable for them to grow - a whole year later!  I usually plant about 24 plants - twice that amount seem to pop up everywhere in the garden!  And they can produce sooo much fruit - I often am able to freeze half the produce for "the cold times".  I have just learned another tip; to plant the seedlings deeper at transplant time, right up past the hairy stem which makes aerial roots and helps anchor the plant.  Here are some tips I have learnt over the years, to produce the best crop.

GreeNZ Best Tomato Tips:
1.  Set up stakes before planting, this way you don't damage root systems
2.  Sink a little plastic pot next to your seedling tomato - you can use this for feeding and    watering the plant -   it all goes down to the root system rather than running off on the surface.
3.  When transplanting seedlings, plant them deep enough to cover the hairy stem.
4.  Remove lower leaves - the first couple, when planting into the ground.
5.  Pinch out laterals (that's the little stems which grow out between the main stem and side  leaves) so that energy can go into the fruiting offshoots.
6.  When tomatoes reach the top of your support, pinch out the top or else the plant becomes top-heavy and pulls the entire plant over!
7.  When fruiting, feed your hungry little tomato plants every 2 weeks ( I alternate between sheep  poos and  worm wees or comphrey tea).
8.  Watch for hungry birds - they love to snack on the lower sets of fruit!  I net these with re-used  onion net bags.
9.  Don't water the plant - try to water into the little immersed plastic pot or immediately onto the  soil to prevent fungal diseases.  Or gentle water pressure to water the ground around it.
10.  Mulch around the plants to conserve moisture - compost or straw or even vacuum-cleaner   collections of hair and dust!

Did you know?  Tomatoes are the signature food for a healthy heart?  Anyone with heart disease or complaints should learn to cultivate these little treasures and make tomatoes a regular part of their dietary intake.

New season's green leafy crops: kale, broccoli, cabbage, caulis, chicory and
leeks interspersed with chamomile
I have remembered to feed my brassicas this year (broccs, cabbs and caulis) - and have harvested some whoppers!  Caulis weigh about 1.5kg while the cabbages weigh nearly 2kg!  Wow - shows you what a little worm wees and sheep poos can do!  The cauli was put to a sensational soup - gourmet!  Garlic, onion, a sweet potato, veg stock cube and salt it's only additions.

Second green leafy crop bed with salad greens: coriander, mizuna, lettuces,
cauli, silver beet and cabbages

Our salad bed is rampant, I think I've overdone them and could probably feed 3-4 families with these guys - they are now wall-to-wall salad stuff and we can't make enough salads to get through them quick enough.  I am still supplying a local coffee shop with parsley, in exchange for their coffee grounds but that soon should run out.  Must sow more parsley seed! 


I like to grow the leaf variety lettuces, rather than the "head" variety, which require picking in one fell swoop.  The leaf variety allows you to pick a selection of different lettuces for a salad - red, green, freckled, frilly or 2-toned, like this one above.  Rocket and Mizuna add another dimension, with a slightly peppery taste.  A wee smidgeon of herbs like parsley, coriander or mint, so as not to overpower the salad, and then the tit-bits to brighten it up - calendula, borage or nasturtium flowers, capsicum, cucumber, tomato (sun-dried in winter, or fresh in summer) and sprouts of the day (either mung bean or alfalfa).  

As I was working in the garden this weekend, an idea came to me: Mike and I have been working hard at building a business - a greengrocer's.  In years to come, as our children head off to live lives of their own (as our son has already done), they can always return weekly for a few bags of fruit and vegetables.  We will always have more than we can utilise, so this will become their living edible inheritance.  And as they currently share not in the joys of gardening or learning from us the skills of survival, perhaps one day I will print off my blog and bind it in book form to gift to them.  Hopefully there will come a time when they will want to learn about sustaining themselves with real-live nourishment from garden to table.  Well, that's the hope.........
I never did quite resonate with the saying: "Give a boy a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for life."  My version goes something like:  "Give a kid a carrot and he nibbles on a snack.  Show him how to sow carrot seeds and he'll learn how to make carrot soup, carrot stew, carrot juice and carrot cake!"
Planting seeds of hope.......
Leeks, parsley and kale
I have set out a small batch of Maori potatoes in a pot.  Mind the spelling error on my sign - that should read Urineka! These are delectable eye candy on the plate - bright purple flesh.  Purple foods are high in anthocyanins - and protect us against cancers and neurological damage like Alzheimers.   Makes awesome mashed potato!  To buy the seed potatoes, click on the link above.
Urenika potatoes

Bright splashes of Spring Cheer
During my holiday break, I added handles to my Wonder Cooker Box.  Makes life easier to pull it out of the shelf!  The wooden box is lined with 2 pillows of polystyrene balls - bring a pot of rice or soup to the boil, pop it into the Wonder Cooker - off you go and 20 minutes later, it's cooked.  No boiling over or burning!  You can safely leave it 3-4 hours and it will still be hot enough to eat.  Eco-cooking at it's best!  No cleaning up spill-over messes, burnt pots or using heaps of energy to cook.  And this technology is easy enough to make!!
Wonder Cooker with handles!

Lime flowers
The smell of citrus blossoms hangs in the air, as one walks through our little "Garden of Eatin".  I am sure it is an aphrodisiac to humans and bees!  I want to fill my lungs with the stuff - can't get enough!  What a sight I must be - a little demented hyperventilation freak gulping in the scented air as I walk around with a ditzy smile on my face!
Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise flower
My strelitzias are doing so well this year.  They sulked for 2 years after being transplanted but now they have established themselves nicely and are flowering conveniently enough to allow me to pick one or two each week.  They last a week or two in a vase.  They amaze you with their regenerating tufts - as one dies off, another emerges - up to 3 times. A reminder of my African roots.

Strawberry blossoms mean one thing..............fresh berries for Christmas!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Bananas in the Wind and Walking in the Woods

Lavender , lavender ....
Your smell transports me to  my imaginary Mediterranean place in the sun!
The wind, the wind!  (I'm trying desperately to not swear in cyberspace.) It's blowing gales outside.  I forget each year about these #*$!! buggery winds.  They come with such force and vengeance from the weather gods in desperation for losing their hold on winter.  Just when all the spring blossoms are showing!  One can only watch with helplessness, as myriads of petals take flight and are whipped like confetti around the garden.

Bananas are hardy sub-tropicals which don't like frost but amazingly, always tenaciously spring back to life after a seemingly burnt-out death from winter frosts.  The one thing they can't withstand is leaf-shredding high winds, particularly when they are top-heavy with a huge bunch of fruit!  So a mercy dash out into the whip-ass wind saw me make a make-shift crutch for leaning against the swaying, toppling banana a few days ago.  I took 2 pieces of bamboo, lashed them together with an old bicycle tire inner, slashed in half length-ways, and then secured to the banana pseudo-stem with the other half of tyre inner.  I haven't been out to check today as it's blowing gales (again!).

Bamboo support

Banana crutches.  Does the job.

Worth Saving

The Banana flower at the bottom of the bunch
I have always made banana ice-cream in the Oscar machine which crushes frozen bananas and creates this amazing super-healthy ice-cream.  But of course, I love to experiment and so I have taken banana ice-cream one step further.  I created 3 different ice-cream flavours:  1- Banana, Date and Brazil nut ice-cream  Yum!  2- Banana, Vanilla, Brazil and Carob and 3- Banana, Double Cocoa, Vanilla and Stevia.  Each one unique and interesting.  The brazil nut mix gives a great textural nutty-fudge-like flavour.  These mixes were achieved by dropping all the ingredients into the blender and mixing them all up, then popping them into containers that are freezer-safe.  They are best eaten when you have taken them out the freezer and allowed them to thaw out for half an hour before eating.
Step 1: Frozen bananas through the pulverising Oscar machine
Step 2:  Throw all the mixes into the blender and buzz till well blended

Step 3:  Freeze overnight
I must remember to feed the bananas with some sheep poos, since they are fruiting, to improve the quality of fruit.  Yum, second hand sheep poos!  Well,  I guess sheep only eat grass, so we can still boast being vegetarian despite eating the sheep poos (just not the sheepie!).  Great stuff!

While out enjoying Rotorua, I took these pics at Hell's Gate Geothermal Reserve.  The afternoon sun was slicing through the trees and highlighting the orangey moss that grows in this sulphorous wonderland.  Beauty!

Gnarley roots dotted with mossy lichen

Where are the fairies??

Stunning lichen/moss growth patterns
And veering off at right angles to the Geothermal front where there was boiling, steaming water, back home, I've taken our old Vortex machine out of it's dusty storage to re-install in the kitchen.  The idea is that the powerful magnet at the bottom creates a vortex and energises and oxygenates the water for 9 minutes, similar to the action of water running down a mountain stream and being energised by all the rocky obstacles in the pathway in a natural vortex movement.  This "living water" re-hydrates the body with ease and allows the cells to better utilise the water.  We bought this little fancy-pants machine when Mike was ill and used it for about 2 years but grew out of it (just like fashions - they come and go).  I am simply re-instating this technology in our drink bottles!  Apparently, indoor plants and pets also benefit from this water!  I shall have to experiment with our kitty-cat.  Watch this space.........

Vortex machine to energise water

The miracle of Nature in all it's forms, colours, patterns ............

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Cheapskate Millionaire

Yup, I'm a cheapskate millionaire!  I mean, not that I have a million buckaroonies stored in the bank but that I have everything I need (and then some!) and I hardly pay truckloads for what I have!  We just recently went to a garage sale across the road and picked up a vegetable drawer set for $20!  I have always wanted one but been reluctant to pay $260 for it.  So here is one, a little scuffed and worse for the wear but I dare say, with a little TLC (I'll wait for my Christmas holidays to do her up), she will be quite the little useful and beautiful piece of furniture she was meant to be.

Vegetable drawers with bottom screen for aeration
The top opens up .... great for storing root vegetables.
I found 4 books, and 2 Indian statues for a total of $4!  I am not into dust -collecting ornaments but these little guys will find another life as something else soon - a garden deity tucked away or furniture decoration perhaps.  We'll see.  The books are handy for holiday reading. (Nope, don't have an electronic kindle - don't even have a mobile phone!  Never had the need.)   Have already finished one book - An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay - delightful book about an artist.  Well, delightful is not quite right - it was a bit tragic, but I loved the descriptions of the art materials and art works.  Made it seem so real!

And at the same garage sale, I found a table.  $10!  Not in the best of condition but a throw hides the hideous veneer top (which, I might add, is an extending table in working order).  The legs are good.  Almost as good as mine, my hubbie joked.  I think mine have a bit more substance to them!
Indian inspired knickknacks and holiday reading
Front room table served the purpose
Final resting place for our as-yet-unrestored
veggie drawers.

Now, while still on holiday at home, Mike took us off for a little romantic night away, for 2.  We stayed at a favourite motel in Rotorua (Mike stays every 2 weeks for work, and being on a loyalty card, for every 11 nights he stays, he gets one free night - ha!)  So off we toddled.  First stop - an Opp shop where I managed to score the coolest gear for a princely sum of $4 each (the blanket was only $2 as it has a burn mark).  All washed and fresh - pre-loved but new to me!  The woolen poncho is pure angora wool - beautifully soft and decadently warm!  I think I shall work a renovation miracle on the little woolen blanket.
Opp Shop treasures.

Then we headed off to Hell's Gate in Rotorua.  Rotorua is New Zealand's Yellow Stone National Park equivalent.  A thermal wonderland!  Now a little while ago, we purchased an Entertainment Book from our Kindergarten fundraiser - with all sorts of special deals and coupons.  Cost $60 but we have long since recovered our initial expense.  One of the coupons was a 2 for 1 at Hell's Gate, hence the outing.  It is the first time we have ever been there (even though we have been to Rotorua several times) and we were veritably impressed.  It has bowls of burping mud, venting plumes of steam, bubbling,boiling water pools in excess of 100degC and terrain akin to a lunar landscape.  The walk took us an hour, with lots to see along the way.  We felt it is a very under utilized tourist attraction - the only other folk we met were a french couple (we swapped cameras to take friendly couple pics for each other!) and as we were departing, a tiny handful of tourists arrived.  Where were the hordes?  The busloads of Japanese and German tourists we always see closer to the heart of Rotorua?  This place rocks!  I mean, erupts!
The sign says it all!
The GreeNZ at the Hot Foot Spa.
An impressive carving of Ruamoko (God of Earthquakes) at the entrance 

Other impressive carvings

Lunar-like landscape with French couple's feet in the Foot Spa

The silky gritty mud is great for exfoliating whilst immersing feet in the sulphuric
water which is so hot at first but then one gets used to it - Bliss!
The waters and mud are said to be hugely healing, especially for ailments
 like rheumatism  and arthritis.

Heat-tolerant Algae in the boiling waters creates great swirling patterns

The pungent sulfuric smell of cooked eggs adds to the adventure

Boiling Kakahi Waterfalls  where Maori warriors used to bathe their wounds after battles.  It is the largest hot water waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere!
 The walk was an easy one, not too many uphill gradients and it was well-signposted.  Some signs of a wicked sense of humour too - one sign indicating the Inferno pool which reaches 100degC had a second sign saying that anyone found guilty of littering the pools would be asked to retrieve the litter at their own risk!  Hee hee!

Boiling point spots

Not much grows in this environment apart from some scrubby tea-tree bushes.

Steam everywhere.  Anyone for a cuppa tea?  This pool reaches 122degC!!
After a wonderful morning checking out all the steamy sultry sights, we headed to another coupon deal - the Polynesian Spa for a soak in a alkaline mineral water spa.  Beautiful little secluded area for bathing but once we were immersed, we started to see "floaties" in the water!  Eeek!  Even at a 2 for the price of 1 ($35) coupon deal, it was a bit of a grossing out rip-off experience.  We saw pubes and what looked like spermy guys floating in the water (definitely not ours!!).  Mike tried to joke feebly that the temperature of the water was hot enough to kill any foreign sperm and so there was little chance of me becoming pregnant from a visit to the Polynesian Spa.  We hopped out before our 20 minute time limit light came on and showered off the sexual advances of the previous spa couple.  Won't repeat that one again in a hurry!  Gross!

The lovely little Love Pool

Coming back home, we always feel pleased to get back to our little sanctuary. I have just added a Balinese touch to our fence.  There is a lovely little reasonably priced Bali Shop in Katikati.  My Buddha plaque creates a lovely feel to our enclosed entrance courtyard and a great place to have our Friday night French Henry's wood-fired pizzas from the market.

A touch of Bali

Henri's pizza night, with freshly squeezed apple juice, all from the Friday night market.  Caspian yoghurt, sauerkraut and homegrown salad.   (Ooops!  The toilet roll is for wiping hands!)
A week still to go of blissful holidays............. time to tuck in to some more books!