Jun 30, 2008

draught-stop snake

Miss4 has been rather unwell the last few days, so we've been sticking close to home. We even stayed home from church yesterday morning (vomiting children should definitely stay home. From everything).

Since the weather was filthy we were doing 'inside things,' like sewing and knitting etc. After reading up on our electricity usage the previous night I had found that the only thing we are not currently already doing to the best of our ability (aside from solar water heating) was using draught-stoppers at the external doors. So. A draught-stopper it was.

I hauled out my scrap-fabric bag, full of all the bitty bits from sewing projects, old socks, that sort of thing, and selected three quite long socks (two was not quite long enough). I clumsily sewed up the holes that had landed them into the scrap bag to start with. Then tucked the heels inside and sewed them so the socks were more tubes than sock-shaped. Then cut the toes out, and the cuffs off, and sewed them into a long tube.

Miss4 helped me stuff the long tube with further fabric scraps, we tied the end off, and voila! One draught-stop snake made completely of recycled/salvaged materials.

I'll have to think of a different method for my front door snake, as I haven't any more socks with holes in, but the internet abounds with patterns for these things. And really, I can sew a tube without a pattern :)

One more step along the conscious-living pathway.

Jun 27, 2008


Close your eyes. Imagine that you are taking care of your one year old's nappy/daiper needs while your four year old reads a picture book to herself. There is music in the background and you play peek-a-boo with the 'baby' as you listen to a story about a hen who goes to a "fall fair" and wins a ribbon. "What's a jack-o-lantern?" asks Miss 4. "It's a pumpkin with a face cut out and a candle inside it," you reply (knowing that you've had this conversation before and that she's looking at a picture of the jack-o-lantern) "Remember S L had one at church one day for the children's talk, and she lit a candle to put inside it?" "Oh right," she says.

You continue to play with the baby and listen to the music while Miss 4 sits silently contemplating the picture for at least another couple of minutes...

"Why does God screw our heads off and scrape our insides out?"


Well. Thank goodness I could actually remember what the children's talk of some months ago had been about. It was something along the lines of God taking out the bad stuff in our lives, like hurt and bitterness etc etc (like the seeds - which for me was the weakest point of the analogy - I like pumpkin seeds) and replacing it with his light to shine out.

Not the nightmare vision conjured up by Miss4's imagination.

A perfect example of why it is very very handy to actually be there when your small child is learning stuff - it so often comes back for re-interpretation. In strange and unusual ways. Months down the track. Read more...

Jun 25, 2008

"down to earth" website

Here is my current favourite simple living website


The author is an Australian who has, with her husband, turned their backs on rat-race wage-slavery. Lots of lovely stuff on simple living with elegance and grace.

Also, she keeps chooks - a current wanna wanna of mine :)

On the home front, we had SNOW yesterday! Didn't stick around for long, which a few teacher friends of mine will be sad about (snow is such a rare occurrance here that people are not used to driving in it, the roads aren't really built for it, and so the school buses don't run on snow days - the schools have a 'snow day' about once every couple of years). This pic taken by Merl while it was still snowing about 3pm yesterday afternoon. Merl took a day off and had a great time being parent help at kindy and generally staying inside keeping warm :) We had a nice day yesterday. Read more...

Jun 21, 2008

winter solstice gardening

As per tradition, we planted our garlic today - to be harvested on the longest day. Last time we grew garlic, a few years ago, we didn't use it much so we haven't planted any since. We found those jars of pre-crushed goodness to be so much more convenient.

However, since discovering that you can roast the whole bulbs and eat them spread on bread, and the power of garlic's antibiotic properties, I think we could find a use or two for the mighty bulb. And growing it is way cheaper than buying those little jars! (an increasing consideration in these times of ever-higher fuel and food prices).

So Merl bought 1 bulb of garlic today while veggie shopping. After ensuring it hadn't been irradiated (which apparently included a conversation with the check-out operator explaining what 'irradiation' is), we brought it home, stripped it into individual cloves and planted the cloves out in a wee corner of the garden. So hopefully all will be well!

Why only one bulb? Well, there's no use getting carried away, is there? If we use it, we can plant more next year (I believe its our scots ancestry emerging).

Additional gardening adventures today: planting out some purple sprouting broccoli seeds into little 'pete pots'. These are not actually made of peat, but of wood fibre and peat-moss, and are great, because you can grow your seedlings then transplant the whole pot into the ground without disturbing your seedling. It's a little late to plant these, so I've tucked the wee pots into a cold-frame and we'll see how we go. Also, we bought some seed potatoes and I laid them out in the garage to begin sprouting.

So I feel virtuously prepared for the coming spring. Hardly an uber-gardener, but certainly more than we got done last year!

P.S. Photos of the 'garden,' as promised! Most of what you see in the top and middle photos is hedge-trimmings mulch - dormant beds waiting for spring (and the forlorn remains of our scarecrow). The bottom photo is a largely neglected garden along the side of the house which has quite pretty flowers come spring, and the very beginnings of food production - if you squint you can see the cold-frame/cloche at the far end of it. The garlic I planted today is just around the corner beyond the cold-frame.

Jun 17, 2008

And now for something completely different

Enough with the preachy self-congratulatory, pompous posts, we hear you say! (or at least, I imagine some of you are thinking).

Well, as those of you who know us will know, we do lapse into boring self-congratulation/philosophising from time to time.

Sorry, sorry. Can't promise it won't happen again, because I know for sure it will, and probably sooner rather than later :)

But I do note a complete absence of funny stories/garden stories/children stories this month.

So, as light relief, I offer photos of our garden in winter. Partly so you can see that 'winter' in this part of the world very rarely involves snow, (although it does quite often frost), partly so you can see that our dream/vision/goal of a permaculture-ish abundant food-producing haven is almost purely castles in the air. A work in progress, if you're being kind :)

Or at least, I will, once the camera batteries recharge...

[truly, I got half way through writing this post, went outside to take some photos and the camera turned itself off. We only have one set of rechargeable batteries, and so we will have to wait until they're full up again...]

Does this post win the prize of most pointless blog post yet? I sure hope they don't get more pointless...

[photos finally posted here]

Jun 16, 2008

Two things to teach your children - a merl post

I was talking with a friend at work about child raising and my arms were getting really sore from patting myself on the back all the time.

It got to a point where I said "There are really only two things that you need to teach your kids: _________ and _________."

I wonder, if you could only teach your kids (or kids-to-be for some) two things, what would you choose, and why? Read more...

Jun 14, 2008

"Don't Talk to the Police"

Very interesting couple of seminars. From the US legal perspective, but here in NZ we also have the right to say nothing to police - as recently demonstrated by the now infamous Kahui trials. Here is why we, too should say nothing, even if they tell us we are not a suspect...

I was especially thinking about those awful/ridiculous 'terrorism raids' of last year, where people of Tuhoe and various environmentalists were rounded up and interrogated under the new Terrorism Suppression Act.

Best to hear the sort of advice given in these videos before you need it :)

“Don’t Talk to the Police” by Professor James Duane


“Don’t Talk to the Police” by Officer George Bruch


[edited to add: Hat tip to Craig Smith]


Jun 8, 2008

Being hit on the head lessons

Was reading this article over at Best Homeschooling. Alfie Kohn is responding to the common opinion that kids are going to come across bad/boring/tedious/harmful practices and events later in their lives, so we should expose them to such things early so they can get used to it - something he calls the Better Get Used To It principle (BGUTI).

You can see this in all sorts of areas, like homework, standardised testing and win/lose competitive events. Of course, some people believe in the educational and personal benefits of these things, and that's up to them - we all have our own opinions based on what we have read and experienced ourselves. But there are other people who readily concede that in an ideal world kids should not have to endure these things, but then say that in fact kids should have to do it, because they will need to have those skills later on.

Alfie Kohn was reminded of the Monty Python sketch which includes Being hit on the head lessons:

When the student recoils and cries out, the instructor says, “No, no, no. Hold your head like this, then go, ‘Waaah!’ Try it again” - and gives him another smack. Presumably this is extremely useful training . . . for getting hit on the head again.

But people don't really get better at coping with unhappiness because they were deliberately made unhappy when they were young. In fact, it is experience with success and unconditional acceptance that helps one to deal constructively with later deprivation. Imposing competition or standardized tests or homework on children just because other people will do the same to them when they're older is about as sensible as saying that, because there are lots of carcinogens in the environment, we should feed kids as many cancer-causing agents as possible while they're small to get them ready.

To be sure, we don't want students to be blindsided by destructive practices with which they're completely unfamiliar (although this seems rather unlikely in our society). But how much exposure do they need?
Anyhow, I am unable to resist gratuitous Monty Python sketches, so here is the Argument Clinic, in all its glory (the head-hitting is at 4:08). I have watched it and there isn't any nudity, but there is mild 1970s British abuse language :)


Jun 7, 2008

Kiwisaver - ethical investment option

We have so far refrained from signing up to Kiwisaver, since Mark is self-employed so we're not eligible for employer-contributions. Also, we were not keen to invest our money in unethical things.

Then we worked out that even without employer contributions it was worth it, just to get the government contributions ($1000 just for signing up, plus $1014 govt contribution each year). But that still left us with the usual investment dilemma - what are we funding with our money?

Then, we got an e-mail from our financial advisor that just at the start of April a "socially-responsible" Kiwisaver option was started by Asteron. This is not a plug for Asteron by any means, but at this point this is the only generally available Kiwisaver option that is remotely trying to be 'ethical'. We like the fact that somebody is looking at more than just the financial bottom line. We don't actually know what industries they are investing in, but they avoid tobacco, alcohol, armaments and gambling. So that's an improvement on the usual.

They even allow non-earners and children to sign up, so that's all good. Done and done.

Info for non-kiwis: Kiwisaver is our nationally-administered, government subsidised retirement savings scheme. It is quite new and it is voluntary. Read more...

Jun 3, 2008

Sew Thankful

I know that's a dreadful pun, but there are times I can't resist.

I am so thankful that I can sew! Today I have darned a hole in my jeans pocket, made a patch for it and am about to sew the patch on over the darned bit.

I used to take this skill of sewing patches, sewing on buttons and mending tears for granted, until I made a little baby sleeping bag for a workmate who'd just had a new baby. He was utterly astonished when he realised that I'd made it myself (I'd even made the pattern up out of my head, I was quite proud of that one). But what astonished him was not that I'd made the design up, but that I was able to "like, sewing the buttons on and everything?"

I was gob-smacked. I'd thought that since everyone in this country had had to sit through 2 years of 'clothing' (sewing) at Intermediate School (years 7 and 8), that everyone would at least have a theoretical grasp of sewing buttons and manipulating a needle. Not so, it would appear.

So now, every time I whip something up on the machine, or mend a hole, I am grateful to my Mum for showing me that sewing is not scary, but very easy and a HUGE money-saver. It means I can buy things at the op-shop that don't quite fit; pants that aren't quite long enough but have enough of a hem to let down; jerseys that are a bit baggy but I can bring in a little at the waist to make a bit more shapely; things with a button missing.

Easy to do, and I feel so self-sufficient and frugal. A win all 'round. Read more...

Jun 2, 2008

The marshmallow experiment - a merl post

I've used this as a lesson theme several times in Childrens Church over the years, and it never ceases to amaze me at how key this concept is. In thinking about "wisdom" and what that is exactly, I think more and more that wisdom in it's distilled essence is the ability to choose the long term benefit when faced with a short-term/long-term decision.

From the wiki:
The marshmallow experiment is a famous test of this concept conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford University and discussed by Daniel Goleman in his popular work. In the 1960s a group of four-year olds were tested by being given a marshmallow and promised another, only if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. Some children could wait and others could not. The researchers then followed the progress of each child into adolescence, and demonstrated that those with the ability to wait were better adjusted and more dependable (determined via surveys of their parents and teachers), and scored an average of 210 points higher on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.[2]
Here's some decisions:
a. Wanna buy those shoes or save for your retirement?
b. Have a trip around the world or pay off the mortgage?
c. Go out with someone 'exciting', or pick a life mate you want to live with when you're 70?
d. Cut you arms with a knife or go into rehab for your drug addiction?
e. Give your kids a playstation, or plan out a set of activities that interests them through the day?
f. Eat some chocolate, or go for a jog? (....)

The list goes on and on. (I still think thinking you will want to live with someone when you're 70 is a good mate selection criteria).

Not everything is long term though. You still have to live your life on day at a time. My grandmother scrimped all the way through her life and was then horrified to find that late in life both she and her husband needed medical care with the first $660 per week unsubsidised. So she watched $30K of life saving per year evapourate in medical care that she had thought her whole life that the goverment would provide for. There's no point in denying ourselves completely now for a future that may not turn out the way we are expecting it to. We have to live our lives now.

But somehow these 'moist robot' bodies we find ourselves encased in seem much better at preferring the short term solution, even when it's not to our benefit (want that sofa? get it on Hire Purchase now!). Anyway, hope this isn't too preachy.

Later.

Jun 1, 2008

Review - Living More With Less

by Doris Janzen Longacre.

I picked this book up at the Regent book sale last week, and am finding lots of good stuff in it. I had previously heard good things of the More With Less Cookbook, so didn't hesitate to pop this title in my bag.

The sub-title (if that's the correct term) is "a pattern for living with less and a wealth of practical suggestions from the worldwide experiences of Mennonites."

The book lists five principles for Living More with Less. Here is my brief re-writing of what I picked out of each of those 5 chapters:

1. Do Justice. Be aware of the link between our wealth and the poverty of others, and act to change that situation as you are able

2. Learn from the World Community. Those who are forced to live with less inevitably have lots of things to teach us about doing so. This wisdom will also extend into other areas. The West deludes itself when we think that we are always the benefactors and the 'third world' are the grateful recipients of our patronising aid. It is good to be humble and listen to what others might be able to tell us about life the universe and everything.

3. Nurture People. People are, by definition, not 'things.' The more effort we put into our 'things,' the less energy and time we have for people. And vice versa.

4. Cherish the Natural Order. God made the planet to work the way that nature works. If we correctly understand our role in this world, we will work with God's natural order. Nature is not the enemy to be subdued by our big machines, rather "God saw what He had made and it was good." (Genesis 1)

5. Nonconform Freely. Striking the balance between 'freedom' and 'obligation' is never easy. Tread lightly, be aware of how your choices affect those around you (especially your children, for whom your free choices might feel like a shackle to overthrow), try and make your decisions for good reasons, not just because that's the new accepted rule. Find kindred spirits for mutual support and encouragement.

What follows those brief 5 chapters is page after page of testimonial-type hints from hundreds of people making small and large choices to live more simply. Lots of very practical ideas ranging from "darn your socks," and "eat less meat," to "have a significantly smaller house," "limit your budget to what your family would receive on welfare and donate the rest," and all sorts of other things.

The book is also sprinkled through with relevant quotes from scripture, literature, poetry, proverbs from various countries etc. I'll leave you with one:

Lord, I know not why I eat
And millions die of hunger.
What doth it profit thee to give me food?
What give I in return?
Crumbs, just crumbs.
Lord, here is thy bread.
- M. T. Brackbill, from "Bread for Bread"
published in Gospel Herald
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