Friday, 9 May 2008

New Love

Sometimes I read something that is just so right, so much a fit with the nebulous thoughts about life, politics, and hope in the face of the unravelling state of the world that my breath catches and I have to remind myself to breathe whilst revelling in the wonder of someone articulating just exactly what I've had in my mind.

And the rejoicing that someone, and an author no less, has thought these things, and thinks that it's worth putting them out there. That a voice is worth having, that no matter how small that voice seems, it is worth hearing. Especially when the things written have excited 'mainstream' accusations of treason and un-patriotic sentiment in the author's home country.

Who has excited me to this point of adulation and bluster? My newfound love, Barbara Kingsolver (author of The Poisonwood Bible) and a collection of her writings, Small Wonder: Essays.

Published in 2002, it contains some considered responses to the events of September 11, 2001. These are notable for their poetic calls for a common sense and heart-centered reaction to the attacks on America. But the collection is so much more than just that. Barbara, (I just can't bring myself to come over all undergrad and call her Kingsolver) by including a selection of essays that covers life's topics in all their breadth, puts the war in Iraq into an everyday context; reminding us that while lives are expended in a faraway land in the name of a vengeful justice, we still grow our children up, wash dishes, worry about species extinction and genetic engineering, work out our relationships with our mothers, and embarrass ourselves occasionally. She calls us to remember that the 'news' of the day on the box or in the newspaper may not be our news of the day, or what we want to know about what happened today.

In a world where we're expected to be up-to-the-minute informed about the latest whatever, Barbara Kingsolver stands up and asks, "Says WHO?" She advocates for a thoughtful approach to what you let into your mind and life, and ask everything to prove it's usefulness to you. This is not to say that she shies away from the difficult topics. The very opposite is true: careful reading and research go into her essays, and, one gets the impression, into her life. I was inspired by her courage to write words like these:
Political urgencies come and go, but it's a fair enough vocation to strike one match after another against the dark isolation, when spectacular arrogance rules the day and tries to force hope into hiding. It seems to me that there is still so much to say that I had better raise up a yell across the fence. I have stories of things I believe in: a persistent river, a forest on the edge of night, the religion inside a seed, the startle of wingbeats when a spark of red life flies against all reason out of the darkness...I'd like to speak of small wonders, and the possibility of taking heart.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

bits and pieces

A weekend filled with a miscellany of activities and observations...

  • I'm cross at the blackbirds. They have rooted out all but 2 sprouting sugar snap peas, and played havoc with the broad beans in the vegie patch
  • Dearest ran in the Great Puffing Billy Train Race. It's a 13.6km run from Belgrave to Emerald, mostly alongside the track that Puffing Billy, our local steam train runs on. He managed to beat the second train of the morning, called the 'girls train' (grrr...?) because it's the one the women have to try to beat to win the race. As he didn't beat that one last year, very pleased with himself he was too. And now is sore, tired and on the couch with a Scotch.
  • Re-learning that spending a day lying on the couch with a good book is actually a feasible thing to do on a weekend.
  • Delighting in playing games with my kids. You know, the simple ones: catching/rolling/throwing a ball. Puzzles. Bikes. Reading a little story.
  • Excitement at plans to turn half of our driveway into a vegie garden!


  • Beginning birthday planning for Poppy. Five feels so BIG!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Q: When is your dog not your dog?

A: When you've bought a microchip instead.


I'm afraid that our modern life has led me to begin sounding like a bad first-year philosophy tutorial, but: we recently had to fill out a change of ownership form for our dog. Our dog that we have owned since he was legally saleable. He came fully microchipped, you see, and we were given all the papers, food, certificates etc etc etc ad nauseum that one could want to collect with a 9 week old puppy.

Fast forward a year, and...we decided to register him with the National Pet Register, just to ensure that if he did wander, he would have every chance of getting delivered back to us. That was when we made The Discovery: our doggie's microchip number is different to the one on his paperwork. The vet confirmed which chip number was right, by scanning the pooch. Then came the rigmarole of calling the National Pet Register to correct the problem.

Which can only be corrected by filling out a change of ownership form.

Am I the only one who thinks this is seriously out of kilter? I bought a dog, not a microchip. I was against the chip anyway - unnatural, controlling, etc etc - but went along with it because of various regulations and flat out 'no, you may not buy this puppy without a microchip' -type statements. And now I find that I really did buy a microchip, and that the outer casing of furry dogginess and slobbery, enthusiastic goodness doesn't actually rate a mention in this whole debate.


What a strange world.

Lucky it's got things like dogs in it.

Monday, 7 April 2008


Leo single-handedly harvested our dried beans we'd saved for seed the other evening. With intent concentration in every line of his little body (oh those capable little baby boy fingers!), he tried out different ways of opening the pods, plucking beans and dropping them into his bowl. Then we had belly laughs when we blew away the chaff.

From. Our. Own. Patch.

We are so excited!

We have harvested the very first potatoes that we grew our very own selves!!

They are a variety called pink fir apples, and are best when boiled or steamed. Yummy, knobbly, slightly pink, and best of all: the kids ate loads and asked for more!

We are grateful to have a harvest at all. At first, it seemed that our spuds were not going to work out. We tried growing them in tyres, starting out with one soil-filled tyre, and adding more tyres full of soil/mulch as the plants grew, as suggested in various permaculture/organic gardening books we know and love...but they didn't work so well. The potato plants died off before they could flower, and seemed to rot, stem and all. I did some web research to see if we were having our very own Irish Potato Famine, but no, something went inexplicably wrong with our spuds.

So, we decided to just dismantle the tyre towers and grub through to see whether there was anything in there. And lo! We found some spuds! There wasn't the bumper crop that the tyre-growing potato contingent had spruiked, but there was a modest bucketful. Enough to get us and the kids excited, anyway.

Tangling, with yarn.

Why does wool do that?!

Wind it into a lovely, big, hand-dyed, unbroken hank, tie it in three places, leave it alone in a bag for 2 years...

...and spend 3 evenings, with several hours on a weekend included, untangling and weighing this:

I suspect that the wool has been talking to the electrical cables that tangle themselves behind the computer when we're not looking.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Heat-enforced end to blogging break...

Hi. I just had to come out of blogging seclusion to say:

Where is Autumn? It is way too hot for mid-March. We got up to 39.7 degrees (celcius) here today. That's just crazy-talk. Our garden is dying a slow death. When people ask what is in the veggie patch, I say, "Crisps."

Also, did I mention that there has been no rain? We are on tank water only in our area, so can water our garden at whim, but: last week our tank ran dry. It was a really primally scary thing to run out of water. Yes, we called a tanker and had some water delivered, but still. We. Ran. Out. Of. Water. The long-threatened event that is in the back of our collective minds had a preview at our house! And let me tell you it was not fun. Not in the middle of a heat wave, anyway.

We're meant to be heading for more moderate temperatures in the next few days. Wish us luck.