Friday, November 30, 2012

where to worship

A couple of days ago Eleanor and I went to look at a room at the Peoples' Centre with a view to considering it as a possible venue for Meeting for Worship once a month. Currently we meet in each others homes once a fortnight-ish in the evening, the sort of once a fortnight that means if everyone is away or inundated with visitors one week we'll skip a week and meet the next. It is all very well for meeting the needs of those of us already coming but it isn't particularly practical in terms of outreach and advertising that we have a Quaker presence in the Far North! Also for those further out of town evenings aren't that great, especially in winter.

Another of our group was already familiar with the room and wasn't overly keen on it but we thought we'd have a look anyway. It was smaller than I had expected and certainly didn't have the lovely green outlook Cherry Park House in Kerikeri does where Bay of Islands Friends meet once a month. But it was big enough for our small worship group, had facilities for making hot drinks and into the bargain we'd be able to store a box of books etc there which would mean we didn't have to guarentee the same person would be there each month or keep dropping things off with each other inbetween times.

Recently Eleanor and I were in Kerikeri for Meeting, along with visiting Friends Ronis & Michael. We were rather envious of their ability to have a small library easily available, information laid out for enquirers and the fact that we didn't sit there with the lingering smell of someone's tea or the gentle hum and slosh of the dishwasher in the background! This renewed our determination to check out the room we knew was available and see what we thought.

It was funny how the fact that there was an old fireplace and a couple of period leaded windows made all the difference for us both. It gave the space some character. But surely it shouldn't matter what the room looked like to be a venue for Meeting? Well maybe not in theory but how a room feels certainly makes a difference to the quality of Meeting for me. When I was on the wardening team at Edinburgh QMH I sometimes got to show people round who were wanting to hire a space - so often people would walk into our Meeting Room and exclaim 'wow, what happens in here?' there was something about the atmosphere in that room that exuded calmness and peace. Given how much overseers (of whom I was one) and elders were being exercised at the time over various tensions and issues in the Meeting it was a good reminder that actually yes, there is something about that space that has become special. Not because it is sacred space in itself in the usual sense but that in that space Friends sought, and indeed found, a deeper connection with the Spirit.

So could we imagine worshiping in that room in the old museum building? We decided that yes, we could. It is light and airy, there is good parking, it is a well known building, it is 2 mins walk from where I live and only about 5 mins from another. It would be a big step to book somewhere and create a fixed point in our lives for sharing worship together. Would we, in an attempt to be more accessable to others make life more difficult for those already coming? Possibly, but BOI Friends say that despite the times when they end up with only one or two Friends present they wouldn't change the arrangement they have. I hope we too can keep the faith that we can make it work and go ahead with it next year. I'll miss the discussion about it on Sunday as I'll be in Auckland in order to attend MM, but I'll be holding them in the light. Fingers crossed the next step will be deciding how and where to advertise our presence!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

good hair days

My hair is stubborn. It doesn't like being told what to do... a bit like the rest of me really. It is fine and doesn't like being washed more than about once every 5 days or it gets too greasy. On top of that I get psoriasis on my scalp and on my hands which means that finding shampoo that suits my hair, hands and scalp has always been a mission. Sods law usually means each time I find something that works it ceases to be available or they 'improve' the recipe after about a year or two and I'm back to trying to find something else again.

In the UK I rarely used conditioner, my hair just didn't need it. But under the harsher sun here I've found I've needed it, which just adds to the trial and error process.

So when once again I was finding my scalp was not happy with the latest combination of products I decided to try something new. Well, something old really. I'd heard of homemade rosemary hair rinses before but it was only after reading Wendyl Nissen's book The Home Companion lately that I decided to give it a go - the basic instructions are here, the book recipe is a bit different, 2/3rds boiling water and after 24hrs add 1/3rd cider vinegar. I haven't been bothering to store it in the fridge (partly because there is seldom space in there!) the bottom of my wardrobe seems to be cool and dark enough.

So far so good - if I use the rinse plus shampoo once a week and just the rinse on wet hair after a shower once extra between washes my hair is soft, clean and shiny and more importantly my scalp is happy! With summer coming on it remains to be seen whether I'll still need to condition my hair occassionally too. A handy bonus is that I use far less water when washing my hair without conditioning it as it used to take me ages to rinse it all out properly - given how often we have water shortages around here this is definitely a Good Thing.

Due to our rosemary bush not being very big I've been using a mixture of rosemary and our more plentiful lavender, and with the latest batch threw in a sprig of mint too after reading this, if there is one thing we have loads of in our garden it is mint!

I'm enjoying finding another ways to use the produce in our garden. Okay so I'm hardly a big consumer of hair products so it isn't going to make a big difference financially nor in terms of packaging etc (especially as I buy eco-friendly products anyway!), but it is another of those small steps. If it encourages others to have a go then great, that is why I've blogged about it! But for me it is part of a longer journey towards reducing my footprint on the earth and working towards a more sustainable future.

ps whilst I wash/wet my hair in the shower I use the rinse at the sink, put the plug in and pour it over my head and use a cup to repeat this until all my hair and scalp is rinsed.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

marking time

Today was the annual end of year social get-together for the local genealogical society. Unlike last year where it teemed with rain and the venue of the croquet club would have been better for water polo given we had to paddle in and wade out, we had glorious sunshine and blue skies.

That was but one of the noticeable differences between the two events. Last year I was still very much the newbie, even though I'd been going for half the year I was still the 'new girl' and stood out as being both new and considerably younger than everyone else. This year I was still the youngest by over a decade but that was an improvement by at least half, and there were a good number of new members along who had joined through this year.

Before we ate our fabulous picnic spread we had grace, a moment when many of us felt again the passing of our dear friend Joyce who usually rose to such occassions. Given we're a group that spends our time researching and discussing the dead it has still been a tough year with the passing of several members and members spouses - the idea of adding to your family tree is not intended to be via your own death certificate. It does seem to be predominantly a retirement hobby though so I guess it is only to be expected.

We met this year at Butler Point, the Whaling Museum itself was closed for refurbishment but we had a fascinating talk from Jan Ferguson and a guided tour of the homestead and grounds. Such a beautiful spot, so tranquil... such a difference from what it must have been like in the 1800s. It was hard to imagine the place reeking of rendered whale oil and the Mangonui harbour so full of ships you could walk from the Point to the township across the decks of the boats. The homestead is restored to how it would have been in the time of the first residents, William & Eliza Butler and their family. For me it was reminiscent of the Colne Valley Museum, Beamish and other such places of my childhood.

Various items in the room settings were familiar for having been functioning parts of our own childhoods yes, even mine - although admittedly the tin bath at Granny's was for playing in in the summer rather than bathing! However I was the one who explained to the guide why the cooking range seemed so low - you try lifting a cast iron cauldron pot off something waist high when it is empty, let alone full of simmering stew, then you'll understand why the 'stove' was only knee high! But I'm probably one of the last generations to have grown up with a lot of those things around them, even if they were consigned to the coal shed like Granny's mangle, so museums like this become even more important to remind people of our past. Not only to see and appreciate how life has changed, but also to help us envision how to manage with lower levels of technology and find new ways of moving forward that neither rely on plugging everything in to electricity nor winding the clock back 150 years.

Other benchmarks of the passage of time there are some amazing pohutukawa trees, one thought to be about 1,000yrs old. Their knotted and twisted branches mean they are no use as timber and their wood isn't that great for burning so they've tended to survive the ravages of early European settlement far better than the much more versatile kauri and rimu, but these were far more impressive than any others I've seen here.

I came away with some great memories, some good photos (which I'll upload to Flickr soon...) and a renewed determination to one day get around to making a rag rug like I've been promising myself since I saw one being made at the Colne Valley museum when I was aged about 10yrs old! Oh and of course the usual monthly reminder to actually do some research myself and not just learn how...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

all consuming...

I was reading Cherice's blog post on ecojustice today and it prompted me to get around to writing this which I've been mulling over for a week or so. As she says it is the little steps that make the difference...

I usually reflect on a regular basis about my consumption of food, goods etc and try to be honest about what I need vs want and how I can improve my ethical and ecological footprint on the world. This is something I've done for so many years now that I couldn't say exactly when it started.

Over time different 'causes' have taken priority for different products; organic or not, country of origin, foodmiles, packaging, sweatshop/child labour, recycled products, fair trade, charity goods, sustainability of production... the list goes on. I soon figured out it was easiest to change one thing at a time, wait until that became 'normal' and then add in something else, plus things do change and boycotts come and go. Given on top of this I've already spent my life checking ingredients lists to ensure products are vegetarian and later dairy and (even later) wheat free, there is only so much time and energy that can sensibly be devoted to shopping! Switching from one side of the globe to the other required a wholesale rethink as foodmile rules of thumb got turned on their heads and there were a whole bunch of different products on the shelves than I was used to, so this slowed things down in the supermarket etc for a while I can tell you!

Sustainability has become the big watchword in recent years and I've been around discussions at various Quaker events about the impact we have on the world with our global and domestic travel. Given that I am someone who does travel around the world (literally) due to having emigrated but still wanting to visit where I came from, plus representing Friends at overseas events, I've been using this as my main focus for re-evaluating where I am at. For a while I tried not to fly domestically - but got scuppered on that front once I was working again rather than studying as it became impossible to get to YM etc and back without taking so much unpaid leave it wasn't practical. I still try to travel by land though when time permits.

Packaging, foodmiles and where possible organic produce have roughly been the order of priority for me regarding food of late. I try to avoid non-recyleable or excess packaging - discovering that the local wholesalers sells 1kg resealable bags of many items was a huge boon, especially as they aren't that far from home (unlike the local supermarket on the far edge of town - remember I don't drive!). I try to buy goods that are preferably grown/made in Aotearoa NZ, and the closer to home the better. But even packaged here is better than overseas as it mean less packaging has been shipped. Organic is a decision mostly made on price - I don't mind paying a couple of dollars extra but baulk at what can be up to four times the non-organic price.

The last rethink had been about milk/margarine. Marion's talk at Summer Gathering had led me to try using ghee (even better than butter according to her research and leagues better than marg) as I can digest that - I just don't like the butter taste particularly. The stronger taste did mean I used less though and my marg consumption has dropped considerably (one day I'll get her to write up her talk, I can't even attempt to explain it here!). But I still hadn't cracked the milk issue in terms of the type of fats and added sugars. Further ponderings co-incided with a stay at F/friends who were getting raw cows milk via a co-operative arrangement - they were experimenting making their own yoghurt, cheese and butter. I've long held the theory that my dairy intollerance is due to pasteurisation as I didn't have any problem with dairy when I had farm bottled milk as I grew up. The few occassions I've had it since have borne my theory out but I hadn't had the chance to make the jump easily as technically it can't be sold here for consumption. There are loopholes though and I got the opportunity to split a 2ltr bottle each week with someone.

So now with the aid of a kefir starter I'm making yoghurt (even easier for me to digest) one week and paneer the next - I then use the whey left over from the paneer process on my porridge and when I make my bread. Pretty much anything else I would normally use milk for I use water, whey, yoghurt or coconut milk (which at least comes in a recycleable tin!). I had monitored my soy/rice milk consumption for a while and figured I used on average 1 litre per week, hardly a high user, but in some ways all the more reason to move away from non-recycleable (up here) tetrapacks of a product grown, made and packaged in Australia at the absolute closest! Plus I got through about 3 blocks of feta cheese a month, ish... hence the paneer which is really quick and easy to make and can be made to be more like non-stretchy mozzerella than cottage cheese just by pressing it overnight.

So I collect locally 1 litre of milk from an organic farm (just over an hour drive away) in a glass jar that gets washed out and returned to be refilled - this so far has provided me with all my milk and cheese needs for the week and I am slowly building up small quantity supplies of 'spare' milk in the freezer for those occassions when I do need a little bit more for baking etc. Plus my cheese now doesn't come in plastic and only contains milk and lemon juice! Ok so I'm also still eeking out my lump of sheeps peccorino I got in Wellington but that always lasts me for ages.

Yes I know there are endless arguments against dairy cows but for now I'm giving it a go, another case of seeing it as a choice or compromise I guess. Trying this at a time when my hayfever was at its annual low point (when the privet flowers) in some ways didn't seem too clever yet even so I haven't ended up any more mucusy than usual and there don't appear (yet?) to be any obvious signs of the milk disagreeing with me. It feels good to be making my own yoghurt and cheese and the kefir culture sachets are far better than easy-yo packets etc in terms of content and of course packaging, especially as you can keep some back of each batch and start the next one with it for about 4 or 5 times before starting afresh. What is more it works out way cheaper and the kefir ends up with a cream cheese-like layer on the top from the cream of the milk too, I hadn't had cream cheese in years! Well that is my milk sourced more locally along with my veg - now I just need to crack the flour/grains conundrum!

At a workshop on Sunday we heard a reading describing how things might be in 2035, where locally sourced food and products was all there was left available - we aren't at that point yet, but deliberately moving towards it as much as possible in a planned way makes sense to me rather than finding it imposed on us with no alternatives in place. I hope we don't ever get to the point where we can't bring things in from elsewhere, I'd miss various spices for a start and many of the grains I use are imported. But if I think in terms of how much stuff gets shipped around the world for my daily benefit I'd rather keep my optimal 'shipping quota' for things I can't get locally than things that I can. I much prefer to make positive choices now that mean I have to make fewer compromises I don't want to later...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

the big C

Cancer. It has a lot to answer for. And this year it appears to have more to answer for than most as far as I'm concerned.

When our friend Natalie died earlier this year Ange described how she felt angry with cancer, yet how could you be angry with a disease? I knew just how she felt. I've lost two friends of my generation to cancer this year, both mothers of young children. One of my school friends also lost her husband to it recently and another's husband is currently getting treatment for testicular cancer. On top of this a family I know well in the UK and another friend here are in the unenviable position of currently having their mothers in a hospice with cancer. Last week I was at a funeral for another friend who died from the same, although given she was nearly 80 and had squeezed more living into her retirement alone than most people could hope to manage in several lifetimes you can't help but feel she had a good innings really. And that is just since March this year and are those who spring to mind without having to think about it too hard... on top of this are all the mentions on facebook of other friends who have lost dear ones through it. At least on the bright side Eleanor still seems to be in the clear after her treatment.

Is it one of those stages of life things where as well as the hatched and matched the dispatched start stacking up as well? Or is there really more cancer about than I remember in the past? Is it a case of greater awareness, better diagnosis or simply as a society we're more upfront and open about what is wrong? I just don't remember there being so many people I knew being affected by it in the first two or even three decades of my life. At least not so many younger than three score year and ten. I can think of one family friend who died 'young' from it during that time (hard to get my head around the fact looking back, but she probably wasn't much older than I am now!) but that is all, it seemed then to be an 'old persons' disease affecting my grandparents generation. Maybe my parents will be able to rattle off a list of ones I've overlooked, but the fact that I've forgotten or more likely never even knew about the cause shows that it wasn't really talked about, otherwise why does Lynne stand out as the exception?

Whichever it is, my thoughts and prayers are with Susan, Megan and the K-Ds as they either hope the treatment will cure or at least ease the passing. I watch with admiration as various friends do all manner of things to raise money for cancer research and can't help but feel that my monthly donation to the cause is a bit of a feeble cop out on that front.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

choice or compromise?

Mair blogged recently about deliberately becoming a 'lady of leisure' for a while, intending to do some writing and other creative things which led to an email conversation between us commenting on how hard some people find it to get their heads around the idea of deliberately not having a job for a while.

This linked in for me with some thoughts that were raised partly by Aletia's blog post about where is feminism these days and partly from my own contemplations a couple of months or so ago (before redundancy was on the cards as far as I knew). I caught myself thinking during one particularly stressful day at work after reading a book about living more self sufficiently 'is it wrong to just want to be at home with more time to do all these things rather than be out working?'. The thought felt like a betrayal on some levels - although I'm not sure who of, presumably those who fought hard for women's rights to work, but perhaps on some level of myself and the assumption that my contribution to society would be via the workplace.

My journey is similar to Aletia's, albeit starting almost a decade earlier, growing up with the assumption we could (should?) do anything and everything. I recently read Jill Tweedie's Letters from a fainthearted feminist which whilst not exactly stunning literature was a reminder of the politics around in the 1980s, particularly around gender issues. It is no wonder that we grew up assuming we needed to be Superwoman (albeit probably in less revealing clothing, plus Dr Martens and fringey scarf) to challenge the inequalities and suppression that undoubtedly had limited the options of earlier generations. But in the same way that I've accepted that I no longer personally have to prove that girls are as good as boys at a-z, I've also accepted that it isn't about not doing 'girls' things but sometimes doing them through choice not conditioning or lack of alternatives and it being ok to pick and choose your battle grounds. But don't get me started on the issue of aisles full of Barbie pink...

So, rewinding slightly, whilst going back to 'living like nana did' and being more self-sufficient is more time consuming I'm pretty sure that there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water and revert to the social norms of that era too. If I spend some time basically being a housewife for a while (for lack of a better expression) it is a life-style choice, and no doubt a temporary one at that, rather than a compromise. Surely living in manner that helps generate home produce, is generally kinder to the environment, and allows time for more involvement in both the local community as well as the usual multi-layered Quaker commitments is still making a contribution to society just as much as going out there and earning a living? But it is simply not socially nor politically acceptable to be a 'stay at home not-a-mum', the down side of liberation perhaps?!

But still it is easier for me to make such choices than many. I don't have any dependants, nor a partner whose life is also affected. I have the luxury of being able to choose how I spend my life and money, rather than having circumstances seemingly beyond my control dictate it.There are what some would see as compromises in my life - there probably aren't many people in my age group content to board in someone else's home, but if I had to pay rent/mortgage and bills etc in the usual way the pressure to have a regular sizeable income would be far higher. But I don't like living alone, boarding is a cost effective way of not only avoiding living alone but sharing a carbon footprint and currently means I can contribute to society by helping someone else remain living in their own home more easily.

I try to focus on them as choices rather than compromises - compromise seems to imply that having everything for myself is what I should be aiming for, when actually I've spent a good chunk of the last 10yrs or more actively trying to have less! I don't see that as depriving myself but releasing myself, from a lot of stress for a start off. Instead of worrying about paying to fix the chimney or paint the outside of the house I'm left with cleaning the windows and weeding the vegatable patch - sounds like a good deal to me.

So where does that leave me in my ponderings? This post has taken a couple of weeks to write and has been cut-n-pasted, re-written and deleted so many times you'd think it was an assignment! Each time I come back to it a different aspect seems more relevant, but I guess the thing is to post this now and blog more later as the issues bumble their way around my head a bit longer, or not as the case may be!

Friday, November 02, 2012

'but will she jump?'

Me finishing my current post at the end of the month was in the newsletter that went out this week and gradually various children and parents have been asking me about it.

One 4yr old girl who I'm pretty close to is not impressed. I was trying to cheer her up by explaining that Bonny, who will be the new full time teacher, is one who has worked at our kindergarten in the past and I know she's a great teacher.

At the time we were up on top of the big boxes outside, stepping (for me, jumping for her) from one big box to the other, going up and down the three that make 'steps' and round and around in circles across the tops and planks between the big ones. This is a game we have played together for a while - she doesn't need to hold my hand to do this, but she clings on tight - mainly I suspect to make sure I go where she does! To get down from the blocks I'll often sit astride the parallel bars slide and slide down to the ground. There is usually a blue mat (thin crash mat) by the highest box that the children jump down onto (some hardy souls, or should that be soles... ignore the mat and simply jump barefoot straight on to the bark!). Due to having dodgy knees I don't jump down except in emergencies, much to the childrens' disdain, after all what was the point of climbing up there if not to jump down?

The children think it is funny that I climb up on top of the boxes with them as none of the other teachers do. So I was explaining to my small friend that Bonny was the sort of teacher who would climb up on the boxes with her too, so she'd still be able to play this game even after I'd left. She looked at me through narrowed eyes, considering this extra bit of information. Then she nodded, 'okay' she told me. There was a pause, then the big question 'But will she jump?'

Now Bonny several years ago would've done, that is for sure, but whether her knees are still up to that I have no idea, so I was careful how I answered. 'If she still can she would, we'll ask her when she gets here eh?'. She decided that was okay, but indicated quite clearly that she'll reserve judgement in terms of full approval until she knows for sure.

It looks like I'll probably be there until the end of term doing lunch cover hours anyway until they get a new lunchcover teacher sorted out, so the chances are that game will have run its course before I leave. But the question 'but will she jump?' has stayed with me; yes Bonny has jumped at the chance to come back, but what will I be prepared to jump for? And will my jumping be tempered against the wish to protect myself from discomfort and pain? Or will I end up jumping anyway as what I'm jumping towards has to be dealt with now and can't wait for a slower or alternative approach? I guess only time will tell.