Sunday, 29 March 2015

Happy Helpers

Shanti, Lazy Cat.  Not the best Helper.  But cute!
I have always wondered about communal living.  Not too sure I could actually live in a commune but the aspect of shared work and reward has always appealed to me.  The next best thing to committing to living in a commune, is to invite travelers into your home and the perfect platform is through the WWOOFING network or HelpXchange.  Having signed up, we have access to an international array of helpers, with a diverse set of skills, background and expertise.  Recently, we have had a raft of travelers contacting us and asking if they could stay.  The hard part is turning them away, and over the last 3 weeks I have had to turn away at least one a day!  It is amazing how many travelers are visiting New Zealand, and all willing to help out!
Recent Harvest
We grow enough food for 2 families, achieved through hosting helpers who get on with 4-5 hours per day, of helping around the garden and home while we are at work!  In return, we offer them a accommodation and food.  They have access to free WiFi and all the food they can eat!  We are picking beans, cherry tomatoes, plums, apples, pears, courgettes, beetroot, rhubarb, Daikon radishes, kohlrabi, capsicum, squashes and peaches at the moment!  Plenty to share!

Sieving old paint to remove the skins or dust
A couple of weeks ago, we had a request from a Dutch/Kiwi couple.  Seeing that she was a graphic artist, I thought of a job we had been meaning to tackle for some time.  My daughter recently moved out of home into a flat and her once-was-a-teenager room was looking tired and in need of a new lick of paint.  Perfect!  Now we had help to do just that!  Amber and Ross arrived knowing the task ahead of them. 

We went to the local hardware store and were shocked that 4L of paint could cost $150.  Being a Frugal-Scrooge, I declined their offer to sell me the expensive house-paint.  My husband was a little concerned, whatever would we do?  No worries, I reassured him.  I would create some paint for the job, using what we had in the shed!
Rusty old tins, needed to have their lids prised off with pliers, and then sieved to remove the rust and bits!
Off to our garden shed I trundled.  Rummaging through all our old leftovers I scrounged off a commercial painter some nearly 10 years ago, I prised off their rusty lids and proceeded to pour them through an old sock, into an old paint bucket.  My only requirement was that it had to be water-based paint.  A litre of pink (yugh), a litre of yellow (mmmn), 100ml of dark grey and a few scrapings of cream.  I was unsure of the result.... Beige?  No!  Pink?  No!  Peach?  Not too sure.  So I gave it a name; Strawbeige!

The end result..... Strawbeige!
Our willing workers were a little unsure of my colour but optimistically set about the task and like Trojans, they covered every blimp, scrape and pencil drawing (yes, a legacy of bored teens).  Then Amber was given her next challenge: to create sumptuous lotus flower stenciled images on the feature wall, ala-Bollywood style.  Of course, I have a little Gaudi-gene in me!

She crafted the perfect lotus stencil and then proceeded to painstakingly paint all the images by hand!  Love it!  As our daughter took her bed, bedside table and dressing table, we are planning to buy a double bed for the room so that our children and their partners can stay in this romantic Lotus Room.

Ross and Amber, our painting fairies!
During March Sustainable Backyards programme which runs in the Bay of Plenty, we hosted an open home.  One couple who came through were a lovely French couple, Ben and Sarah, who live and work in Katikati.  They kindly offered to come over on the weekends and help out in the garden - why?  Because it is seemed like a nice place to hang out and learn stuff, they said.  Well, true to their word, they arrived last Sunday and we spent a social 2 hours working side by side.  It was so lovely that we have thought we could maybe do this social gardening project where people such as Ben and Sarah can come into an established garden to help out and take away fresh organic food as payment! Co-operative gardening.  I like that idea.

Ben and Sarah pulling up all the spent squash vines.

Happy helpers in the garden
Ben and Sarah were so happy to harvest all the squash and courgette flowers as these are apparently sought after in French cuisine.  They took a bag of fresh organic food and a bowl of flowers away with them.  A couple of hours later, Ben arrived on our doorstep, with half a bowl of battered, fried flowers for us to eat!  What a fantastic cultural experience!  They were yummy, BUT there is NO WAY I would have the time or inclination to fuss over battering flowers to eat!!  In my mind, a zucchini has a lot more flesh to bite into than a flower!  

Sustainable Backyards Open Home and Garden Tour; guests check out our new compost bins.
Visitors take a little respite from the sun and sample grapes and Chilean guavas.
We are lucky to have had another happy helper, Sky, from the UK, who tended to our virulent backyard weeds.  So without all our fantastic helpers over February and March, we would be Headless Chooks running back and forth trying to get everything done in one day a week!  Well, actually, we still sometimes feel like that anyway!
I am working on an idea to feel less like a Headless Chook..... but more on that later.  Watch this space....
PS.  We just got bees!! yay!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Mural Town, Mural Home

We live in Katikati.  Mural Town.  So when a mural artist and his girlfriend emailed to say they would like to come and do a helpxchange at our place, I didn't stop to think twice.  Of course, he could create a mural in the time they were here!  J (for Jonathan) Muzacz is a truly talented young American mural and tattoo artist currently travelling around New  Zealand with his beautiful Japanese girlfriend Yuki.  
First we chose a wall for the mural.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

My Ideal World

In my Ideal World:
Everyone would grow their own backyard vegetables and teaching children how to grow food would be mandatory in all schools

Councils would plant fruit trees in reserves, among the natives and exotics

Roadside verges would be planted with fruit and native trees - food for people and birds

Councils or governments would set up subsidies for solar energy generation for home owners installing their own power generating solar panels, encouraging people to be mini-power stations.

Farmers Markets will continue to supply locally grown, organic food and not be subject to the Food Bill

Local councils would offer reduced rates for people setting up grey-water systems, composting toilets and rainwater harvesting systems.

The Food Bill would be scrapped to protect people's rights to eat the foods they choose to eat (local and organic) as opposed to passing a business-driven law which encourages corporate greed, and food and seed ownership and monopoly (yes, MonSatan)

Funding would be readily available from the Government (our hard-earned monies, really) for programmes like EnviroSchools, which focus on Sustainable Education, rather than on a country's Military Might.
All family units would invest in someone learning the art of healing, so as to better take care of it's own members instead of relying heavily on the Medical System to fix all our problems (most of which we caused ourselves through bad diet or lifestyle choices).
Home-owners would scatter-sow bee-fodder in their gardens to encourage and protect our busy little workers who help grow our food.

My Ideal World.....  Well, My World is just perfect, the way it is!  I keep tweaking it as I learn and grow.  Ideal.  Like the bumble bee above, I was fascinated by how huge he was while he was so intent on foraging, that an unwanted caress simply sent him off to the next courgette flower, where he carried on gathering pollen to his hearts content!  Ideal, really!