Monday, 28 April 2014

Connecting with Life's little Blessings

A gift from ex HelpxChange, Amy.
I can't believe my good fortune!  2 weeks holiday!  Yay.  I've been waiting for this for 13 weeks!  I have my usual lists of TTD (things to do).   
The first day's list was flat-out ignored in favour of Blobbing.  Given that it was raining a fair-dinkum flood outside, I did not feel very guilty at all.  Did a bit of this, A bit of that.  We sat and watched 2 day-time movies.  Yep, we are serious movie watchers, in danger of running out of viable viewing matter. We have historically hired videos from our local video store, then our son worked there for 2 years and we had the great benefit of watching movies he would bring home for us, for free.   When he moved away to Hamilton, we supported an online video hire outfit for a year.  But then we thought, hey, why not offer our local video store owner our support instead, if he could match the online membership deal.  Realising that he could count on our regular business, he immediately agreed and now our money stays local. That's sustainable business.  Connecting with local business.

Fly my Pretty Dragon.  Detail on our garden shed door.
Sometimes, I get so busy on projects that I have to force myself to stop, look around and enjoy what we have already created.  Breathe in the beauty all around.  So armed with my camera, I captured some images that remind me of little moments of  beauty created over the last few years.  And admired some of the "artworks" that already enrich our home and lives.  These are are random items that connect me to a person, or place.
Home-crafted  stepping stones
A week has already passed since I started to write this post, and in between,we spent a couple of days with very dear old friends in the Far North, whom we had not seen in 12 years. Precious memories of Connectedness.
Wall plaques created by our children when they were pre-teens

Capturing the sign created by a HelpxChanger, and the reflected garden in the window of the shed
Today I spent the day in the presence of like-minded women.  All healers.  All reflexologists. We gathered to simply celebrate time together sharing ideas, stories, opinions and treatments.  Wonderful stuff.  Moments of Inter-Connectedness.  
Imagine a group of doctors getting together to share stories, ideas, swap prescriptions and drive away feeling uplifted and fulfilled?  Hmmmn, interesting idea.
Wha???  Well, spot the poop.  Hedgehog poop.  Yay.  They are nocturnal so
this is the closest we should get to a healthy, happy hedgie.  The things that make me happy!
The garden has been producing 5-7kg of feijoas, daily, for the last 3-4 weeks.  I am exhausted.  Just the picking is a half hour job every evening!  The local backpackers have been happy recipients, along with the bags going to kindy every day for grateful little people. And then there's the guavas, and chillies, by the bowls-ful.  I am ready to move on now.  Bring on the citrus. There is also a big bunch of bananas ripening up.  I have my eyes on them.  We have been thrilled to be able to pick some figs - after battling avian thieves who eventually had their fill of figs and went on to other culinary delights.  Much to our delight!

Our preserve cupboard stocks are looking really good, with oodles of bottles of fig jam, cherry guava syrup, guava jelly, feijoa puree and jam, Canadian dill pickles (gherkins), bottled peaches, peach jam, beetroot relish, basil pesto, bottled beans, saurkraut, plum jam and plum chutney.  I've given plenty away, with our student children taking a fair share.  The freezer is also chocka-full of harvests from fruit to veggies to munch through the winter months.  I am a few days off of bottling our year's supply of olives, after 30 days of daily soaking in fresh water.  Yay!  Intimately Connected to our food supplies.

Daily harvest of Feijoas

Chillies and capsicums

Figs - hooray!

Red cherry guavas
Over the past few weeks, I have enjoyed a little needlework , making little felt Christmas ornaments.  It was triggered off by finding a bag of felt, hundreds of years old, left over from other projects!  Okay, not quite hundreds, but old.  All the uckie colours left over.   I sent my 2 sisters some in the mail but unfortunately, in True African Spirit of Enterprise, they have not reached intended destination.  Oh well, maybe some postal workers needed to brighten up their Christmas trees.  Below are the ones I made for our own tree.  I didn't particularly set out to make them, I just wanted to use up the felt but so enjoyed the process that I made quite a few in the process.  They are padded with thin strips of old throw-away socks.
Humpty Back Camels

So let the new projects begin........... I'm fast running out of time!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sacred Spaces and Multicultural Celebration

No, it's not my living room.  I wish!  It embodies everything I admire...... theatrical, colourful, homely, imaginative, a touch of gaudy kitch.  Love it!  We were at the Historical Village on 17th Avenue in Tauranga to see the Cultural Festival and chanced upon this cozy little barn. It just beckoned to us and once inside, I was suddenly drawn to the whimsical corner which embodied such a homely feel.  There was a work space, exhibition zone and this little social corner.  Well done to the people who crafted this lovely space.

At home, blending in.  Spot the author.
What struck me was that this amazing space was created by discarded junk.  Things that people no longer needed, and they were lovingly grouped and placed to create the loveliest of welcoming spaces.  There were a couple of stage props, probably rescued from the theater at the top of 17th Ave.  Out front, we discovered a yarn-bombed piano to tickle the ivories on.  While in this sacred place, we heard many people take a seat and start to play.  Some sophisticated tunes of well-seasoned players, and other simpler, child-common tunes that everyone learns to play whilst young and enthusiastic, like "Chopsticks".  The whole place quietly screamed: "Gypsy Rose".  Inspirational.
Soft, warm tunes tickling the ivories

Right at home among all this gypsy paraphernalia

Social commentary artwork hanging on the wall

The work spaces were divided by discarded wooden pallets.  Perfect use of an item destined for landfill.  It was possible a half hour later when my long-suffering husband reminded me that we were really there to see the multicultural festival that was taking place a few feet away from this little barn.  Reluctantly, I peeled myself away to check out the colour and flair of all the ethnic groups that make up Tauranga.

An arty chess set awaits players

This was one of my eye candies.  I couldn't get enough of it.

Man-behind-bars, aka Long-Suffering Husband
The multicultural festival was all I remembered it to be 10 years ago.  Loud.  Busy.  An assault of the senses as stall holders jostle side by side for business as they ply their cultural culinary trade.  We walked the sustenance ranks and decided upon Nepalese lunch, followed by Cook Island dessert of poko, a sweet jelly-like dessert.  The festival stage was filled with ethnic groups doing their thang, with noisy MC on loudspeaker encouraging the crowd to clap enthusiastically.  All just a little too much for me.  Some entertainment looked authentic, but I somehow cringed at others, like the pale-skinned women with long hair wigs doing sexy belly dance moves in their glamorous middle-eastern see-though caftans!  Just doesn't do it for me.  Go to the classes, enjoy, but keep it there or in the bedroom.  
(Note to Self:  Party Pooper!)

Natural resources for these costumes

There was a stall representing our home country, South Africa.  3 middle-aged men standing over a gas barbecue (since when??) braaing (actual term for SA BBQ) vleis (meat) and boerewors (literal translation.... farmer's sausage).  As vegetarians, the smell of searing flesh forced us to give a wide berth to avoid all contact.  So we never did get to feel at home. Ethnically speaking, we feel more of a pull to the Indian stall.  Or Nepalese.  Close enough. 

And the moral of the story:  it was a great outing.  I went to see the Multicultural festival but ended up falling in love with a barn.  You never know what life will throw at you!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Alpacas in the Olive Grove

A 5L bucket of black olives is quality checked by our little fluffy friend
'Tis the season for olives.  Mike asked our local olive oil maker, Bert, if we could pick some of his.  In  typical small-town-hospitality style, he told us he wouldn't be home on Sunday, but we were welcome to go onto his land and pick olives.  The instructions were simply to pick from the third row of trees, from the road.  We arrived and were bemused by our welcome party.  A long-necked sheep!  Wait a minute, it's an alpaca!  What a wonderful sight!  Bert forgot to tell us about his pet!  This little gal imprinted on Mike and decided to follow him closely for the duration of our picking session.

Hello, Little One.  Mike called her Opal.

Curioser and curioser, and then....... a kiss!

Sniffing and smelling everything
We left a box full of our bottled preserves and fresh produce for Bert, on his doorstep.  It is a good principle to live by, to exchange goods.  We have so much we can trade!  And it is great to give people food that you have too much of!   Earlier in the week, we took a bagful of feijoas and guavas down to the local backpackers. It was dinner time for them and I knocked at the front door.  It was opened by a Spanish lass.  I gave her the bag and told her that we had too much fruit and couldn't eat it all.  The bag was to share among the residents.  She seemed genuinely taken aback that a stranger should give food away.  But pleasantly so.  We will take another bag tomorrow.  
After having so many foreign travelers share our home and lives, we feel drawn to any foreign accent we come across.  I have to exert restraint lest I come across as a mad woman.  Mike and I went to the movies last week, and there were 3 young foreign travelers in the seats in front of us, I wanted to touch them on the shoulder and ask if they were okay or needed anything.  When I shared that later with Mike, he laughed and said he felt the same way!

Sticking close to Mike

Opal taking a little snooze at Mike's feet

Cutest little Earthling!
Back to Bert's, what a fantastic morning we had, the sun was shining, the trees were chokka full of olives; green and black. First we picked a bucket of black, then a bucket of green.  We had a cuppa tea from our flask, in the sunshine, while our little fluffy friend sniffed and nuzzled us.  We marveled at the generosity of our host, who asked for nothing in return.  People would pay for the privilege of just picnicking in the olive orchard.  300 olive trees.  Rows and rows of them.  A magical place.

Olives in the morning sunshine.

Olives ripening
Olives are a Super-Food.  They are high in  anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  They can help decrease blood pressure due to their monounsaturated fats, and are thus also good for heart health.  Olive benefits have been demonstrated for the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, nervous system, musculoskeletal system, immune system, inflammatory system, and digestive system.  Research has also shown olives to be good anti-cancer food, because they are high in antioxidants and protect our DNA integrity.  In fact, for more info as to why you should eat olives daily, read this.
Mystical Olive Grove

Our little buddy made a series of continual bleatings, like a lamb sneeze.
As we were finishing up our morning tea break, we looked up and to our surprise, discovered a dozen other alpacas had snuck up on us.  A couple of them seemed to have these curious rabbit-like teeth.  I have read that alpacas are mainly used for their soft fleece which is likened to a cross between merino and cashmere.  Their bigger counterparts, llamas, are typically beasts of burden.  Alpacas were introduced to NZ in 1987 and we at last count, numbered 12 000.  They would make the most awesome pet!

Hello, there Big Fella!   

Odd-looking creatures remind me of Mr Tumness in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Surrounded by fantastical creatures

Beyond the gate lies a mystical kingdom of strange creatures and great beauty

A 5L bucket of green olives
Now we start the 30 day curing process.  I submerge the olives in water and change it every evening.  For 30 days.  Then we bottle them.  How exciting.  I will have to gift Bert a bottle of olives!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Autumnal Delights

The beautiful Monarch Butterfly
April.  Feijoa-flavoured month.  Everywhere I look, everything I eat, everything I collect, whatever I bake or preserve, everything I smell and everything I give away - feijoas.  Crumble, puree, dehydrated, cake, fresh or frozen.  April brings a feijoa-scented smell to the house.  By the end of the 5-6 week window, I am definitely over feijoas for another good year or so.  
Feijoas lie scattered on the ground each day.
They start in a small drip-drop kind of way that makes each one such a treasure.  10 or 12 a day.  Manageable and I can cope with that.  Then after 2 weeks, they start to drop in bucket-loads.  Daily.  Tonight I picked up about 5-6 kilos of the guys.  That will continue for the next 4 weeks or more.  I take them to kindy, to the rest home and to the local backpackers to share the vitamin C overload.  Great to fortify bodies for the cold winter lurking around the corner.....  I made 2 feijoa crumbles on the weekend, and pureed a 1&1/2L bottle tonight.  Pureed and sealed in hot jars, they last a good 5 months on the shelf.  Longer in the fridge.

An old peg apron makes a great 2kg collecting bag.

The spoils of one tree... great to give away.  A gift of Vitamin C.
Harvesting all our cucurbits too..... those are vine-growing veggies - butternuts, gem squashes, pumpkins- all shapes and sizes.  I clean them off with a little bath, then store them away for winter meals.  Baked, soups, stews ............. mmmmmmmmn, there is something to look forward to even in the colder months!  A few years back I had a hungry little family of mice hollowing out each carefully stored pumpkin in our shed.  From the back of the shelf, so looking at them, I didn't even know that they were being eaten!  It was only when I went to pick up on ultra-light one that I discovered the nasty truth!!  
My favourite:  butternuts.

A gnarley-looking pumpkin called Marina di Chioggia

Maori kamo kamo amass themselves for a giant assault in the kitchen

Stored squashes in an outdoor shelving unit

Another Marina di Chioggia and not sure what the middle one is.....
Other harvests also keep me busy; late strawberries, red and yellow cherry guavas and chillies.  Yay, I always make at least 2 liters of Sweet Thai Chilli sauce to get us through the year.  Some chillies are also dried to grind as a powdered spice for that extra little bite in Indian cuisine.

Chillies, guavas and Strawbs

Another cache of the Hot Stuff

Ripening red cherry guavas in the afternoon sunshine...
The apples are also ripening.  We had a handful of the early season Freyberg apple a month ago, and our reds are now slowly sweetening and ripening.  I pick up any that drop, cut out the manky bits and make juice in the mornings.  This morning we had a medley of grapes (very hard on the juicer), guavas, lemon and apple juice.  A powerhouse of liquid energy. Sadly, our Monty's Surprise apples (a NZ heritage apple) did not bear any fruit this year, due to some rather  severe pruning last winter.  
Red apple - a gala perhaps?

Sweet, juicy crisp eating apples.

Eve's Temptation Tool

Clusters of green cooking apples
I had a wee peek into the pheromone coddling moth trap last week and spied many little buggery moths.  Apparently the males are attracted to the pheromone plug and congregate on the sticky pad, and die.  Those that are trapped are unable to mate with the females.  Hee hee.  Tricky little blighters to get rid of so I am happy to report that after about 8 years of fighting, I think we may be winning the battle!  We underplant with lavenders, chives and rose geranium - all stinky plants to repel the wee buggers.  Also do cardboard collars to trap them in (but only seem to trap earwigs), grease bands, the works!

Male coddling moths

Pheromone coddling moth trap
Other dastardly visitors are these gorgeous white butterflies which flit about, looking awfully pretty and appealing.  But their annoying habit of laying eggs on the undersides of all my brassicas has me walking around with flailing arms in feeble attempts to swat them (nigh impossible).  And the result:  worm infested, shredded leaves.  Tonight however, I resorted to (organic) chemical warfare ..... sprayed the crops with a white butterfly repelling concoction. First time I have bothered, but desperate times call for desperate measures...... All previous attempts (building little cages, cloches etc.) have failed.

The beautiful and deadly white butterfly.
The masses of harvests are keeping me busy in the kitchen - cleaning, storing, preserving or bagging fruit.  Sheesh, anyone able to come and help us eat all this food?