Trail Riding.

Occupy Wall Street was a grass roots movement with all the difficulties associated with such. Here in New Zealand and I imagine around the world, the impulse was quickly and enthusiastically grasped and acted upon. It certainly hit a nerve in international consciousness.

The criticisms are obvious and have been pointed out ad nauseum; yes, it was chaotic and unfocussed and attracted all the usual malcontents and young people just wanting to hang out and have an experience etc etc etc. However, had it been ONLY that, would it have swept the free world in the way it did?

For something to catch on as powerfully as OWS it had to resonate with  the feelings, observations, beliefs of a very large number of people. In addition to those physically on the streets, there was a huge number of people silently or actually supporting the activists.

Even if it did nothing else, the movement drew attention to the truly dreadful wealth inequality and the cultural accomodations of that inequality that have produced some pretty serious social maladies.

In the interests of enormous wealth accumulation people starve while food goes to waste in gigantic warehouses, good land becomes covered in tarmac or sequestered into non-productive, unnecessarily spacious private real estate and money that could be circulating becomes tied up in seldom used, expensive toys and collections. It is not that accumulating a degree of wealth through one’s own intelligence and hard work is wrong. Quite the opposite; it is to be admired. However, when that becomes an end in itself; when there is never “enough” because of the need for capital to keep expanding in order to survive, there has to come a tipping point both of morality and of the expansion itself.

There is something deeply disturbing about the fact a poor person can be electrocuted for murdering one other human being while a rich one can be lauded for donating money to a charity while his wealth-accumulating activities cause the death or suffering of thousands of fellow human beings just out of the line of sight of those conferring honours upon him. How can it be OK  for a head of state to build huge garish accommodation for his family while his people have to beg for charity and die in their tens of thousands of starvation or poverty related disease?

There is so much more to the whole question of inequality than simply the mechanics of how wealth is distributed, traded and accumulated. There are the deeper questions of morality, compassion, responsibility (for self and others), comprehension of the fact there is a whole world of people out there, beyond the boundaries of nationality, race and creed.

The answers to these questions are difficult to come to grips with and may be the reason why a movement like OWS sometimes seems hard to pin down as people struggle to communicate their instinctual reactions in ways that can be comprehended by the masses mesmerized by the distractions and distorting mirrors of a society bent around working for the few who are in control of the political and financial institutions and placating the rest in order to be able to continue creating and sequestering wealth as an end unto itself.

To finish on a positive note; it is wonderful to live in a society where people with strong ideas can demonstrate those freely and raise the awareness and consciousness of their society. If that is the only outcome of OWS, then it has achieved and important goal, because it is the consciousness of humanity that will determine our fate.

Hey Little Brother, come and play!

Lambs on the neighbours’ property are a sure sign of Spring

A few days ago the usually peaceful atmosphere here was drowned in a turbulence of chainsaws roaring through tree trunks and tree limbs. When we bought this property last summer it had been neglected for a long time and from being an “English Country Garden” it had become an overgrown but still beautiful, mixed jungle.

Because we have a firm philosophy of edible landscaping and sustainable living, not only for humans but for all creatures, we had to think hard about what to do with the inherited jungle. It is not a pleasant thing to have to cut out trees. I almost physically feel the pain of the trees because I just cannot not see them as living, breathing things. However, I reason with myself that humans die in order to make room for fresh life and sometimes die before the natural life-span is completed and that is just how life is on the macro-scale.

The birds disappeared to the neighbouring properties and up high in the bush-clad hill above us for the day which I found wise and very understandable. The charming young men who came with their knowledge and their chain saws and tree-scaling ropes and spikes, worked extremely hard and with such good- nature d tolerance of some of our more challenging requests and the break-down of their chipper, that it is no pain to pay the NZ $1034.00 bill for the day’s work. They achieved in a day what it would have taken us a couple of weeks to achieve with all the wood cut up into winter firewood lengths and (when the machine was fixed a couple of days later,) the rest chipped into wonderful mulch. The pile of mulch will need to sit for a couple of months before we can use it and the day after it was placed beside the driveway i could smell an extremely strong smell that resembled rotting fruit and it took me a while to realise it was the smell of the mulch heap doing its “maturing” thing! The smell is now gone as have the mini-clouds of steam and the pile is just sitting weathering and should be ready for use before the dry weather comes, thus helping the remaining trees to retain the moisture around their roots.

Water is either over-abundant here or we are searching the weather forecast and the skies for rain for weeks on end, to ease the need to water the gardens. It is amazing how, no matter how well we water, the plants always seem to almost jump up out of the ground with growth spurts once the real rain falls.We are blessed with a good stream beside the property from which we can take water for our gardens and a spring for household water. When I hear my friends and relations complaining about their eye-watering water bills, I feel so grateful that our water is free and pure without the use of chemicals, and our grey water goes to water the trees.Image

The Cherry Blossom Trees

The abundant blossoms are Heaven for tui and bellbirds, wax eyes and finches who all love the nectar and the bees who gather the pollen. It is magical to stand and listen to the loud humming of the bees as they work and the liquid nectar of the Tui song or the other-worldly clarity of a bell-bird’s call flow over the gardens all day long.

Crash! Do you know how loud the crash is when a small bird hits your window at speed? I can tell you it sounds as though someone has put a shot through your window and it is a sound I so hate to hear. I feel painfully guilty that my window has caused distress or death to a beautiful little creature!

The other morning I heard just such a crash and dashed out to the ranch slider on our deck to find a colourful little bullfinch lying prone on the wooden decking. I blessed the cold breeze for the fact the window was shut as the cat had leapt at the chance of easy prey and was patrolling the inside of the door, tail slashing, all predator. As I watched, the little creature fluttered mightily and stood up on its two spindly legs, which promptly did the splits and the bird tumbled forward onto its already sore little head. This happened three times, each time the standing a little longer and the splits a little slower.

I couldn’t watch any longer and, after checking there was no access between bird and cat, went up to the garden to work off my feelings of remorse and guilt. Looking back at the deck from the garden about half an hour later, there was still a little body visible in front of the black sphinx silhouette in the window. However, to my absolute delight, when I returned to the scene a little later there was no bird to be seen and the cat had returned to her sunny spot on the bed to only dream of her chicken dinner. One little plop of bird poo was all that remained of the traumatic event and I have since seen the finch enthusiastically harvesting the cherry blossoms along with its mate, so I am in awe of the ways of nature yet again.

Needless to say, I quickly replaced the ribbon mobile I hang outside the ranch sliders to prevent such incidents and which I had removed in order to clean the window previous to the bird’s accident. When next I venture to town I shall purchase a couple more as well because in the breeding season more than at any other time, the birds seem less able to discern the glass, probably because they are so distracted gathering enough food for their babies or escaping the amorous advances of mates!

I didn’t post a post yesterday because the day before a Terrible Temptation arrived in the letter box along with the newspaper and the electricity bill. I put the bill on the pile to be opened next Monday and focused on the Terrible Temptation. It was only a hand made flyer, but it had great little sketches of all the native plants in their three day sale and some of those were just the ones I had thought to make into a hedge along one of our boundaries.

My friend was up for a trip to the big city, so off we went yesterday to the edge of the big city only, to the nursery where we bought up large and proceeded on to another we wished to visit for vegetable seedlings and seeds and for a delicious lunch at the attached cafe. Actually the seedlings were just the excuse we made to ourselves in order to have the lunch! That didn’t stop us both spending more than we intended on plants, including an avocado tree C.J. and I had been thinking about buying for weeks. We looked like Burnham Wood coming to high Dunsinane as we made the hour and a half journey back to her place and then a further half hour to my high Dunsinane.
By the time I arrived home it was nearly dark so the plants got put, still in their pots, to shelter for the night under trees and in a well protected garden where they snuggled in between the established residents.

Today was the day to face the reality of planting an avocado tree and a half dozen seedlings that are borderline for this early in the spring, so that they might have a chance of success.

First, dig a hole. How simple and easy that sounds until I survey the piece of ground where we intend the tree to grow. With the warmer temperatures and high rainfall, montbretia has threatened to claim back what we wrestled from it’s grasp in the autumn, so out comes my wonderful Stihl line trimmer that I am in love with almost as much as I am in love with my cat who comes just after my husband. It needs new blades, but CJ used it last and the tools for changing the blades are nowhere I can find them and he is in the middle of the West Australian desert right now. Oh well, the old blades will just have to do. The little darling starts beautifully as always and is soon roaring through the montbretia, but then I see how long the weeds have grown around the caravan so decide to tidy them up before the threatened rain hits and at the same time I can cut back the long weeds in readiness for planting the hedge plants. Two fills of the tank later, I decide I had better stop and get on with the hole digging, so the trimmer gets a good brush off and put away.

This is all made difficult by the fact I haven’t used the machine for at least three months and my muscles are shaking and my hands have pins an needles from the vibration. I go to get a drink of water and can hardly lift the glass to my lips without spilling it! I still have to dig that hole, no argument and no more procrastination.

The top spade depth is wonderful rich soil full of worms (some half worms after my indelicate intervention in their lives I am distraught to report), but then every spade thrust produces a bone-jarring message that there is a layer of broken up rock to get through. Oh great, just what every tree planter wants to discover! Through this layer with much wiggling and lifting out of large rocks with my hands, I hit clay. Oh, almost as good as the rocks! Avocados do not like to have to put their roots through clay, preferring to take the easy way out by dying unless planted in nice friable soil where they can dessicate at the first sign of a dry spell unless tucked up under huge layers of mulch and watered. They are proper little prima donnas when young. I can think of some family members they resemble…no, I won’t go there! Well there is nowhere else to plant a tree that will eventually, if we can get it through the dangerous years of adolescence, grow into an impressive, tall and handsome adult, so I shall have to think of a strategy. Yes, of course, plant it shallowly and build up around it with compost (it is a voracious feeder, the avocado) before putting on a layer of mulch. Great idea except just at the moment I don’t have that much compost available! As part of yesterday’s extravagance I do have a couple of bags of good fertilizer in the form of sheep pellets and blood and bone, so I mix lots of that with seaweed gathered earlier from the beach and some of the soil dug from the hole. The tree is now ready to be planted and the wind is really getting up some volume and speed, so a stake will be necessary and wind cloth to make a shelter. Off to the bamboo patch to saw through some big bamboo to make a support stake and four stakes to hold the wind cloth. By the time I have walked all the way back to the house. Did I mention this place for planting the avocado is on the side of a hill that is by now taking on the dimensions of Everest? The bamboo and everything else I need is at the bottom of the hill in different places so it is necessary to go up and over the top of the hill for most things. Now it is back to the house for an iron bar, so heavy I can only just carry it in one hand as long as I stop every few metres and rest one end on the ground and a sledge hammer I can also just lift with the other hand and the same priviso. It is too steep to put them in a wheelbarrow. They would simply slide out, so I make staccato progress back to my planting site. I swear the magpie in the huge pine tree not far away is actually laughing at me. Hell, I am laughing at me! Where did that super strong woman who could do anything a man could do, disappear to? Who is this unfit old woman staggering along under the weight of an iron bar and a sledgehammer? I don’t remember when she happened! By the time I have used the iron bar to make holes in the ground for the bamboo stakes, my arms have gone on strike and are refusing to allow me to lift the sledge hammer high enough to whack them further into the ground! Two are shorter and I can manage them but have to resort to returning over the hill to the house for a hammer to try to get the remaining three into place so they will hold at least until CJ returns and make a proper job of it (urgh, did I say that??) By now I have realised the roll of wind cloth is not long enough to go round the whole thing, so give in to the inevitable trip to town for compost and windcloth and make do with a temporary sheltering wall on the windy side. I drag the iron bar and the sledge hammer down the rest of the hill to the driveway so I can pick them up in the car to take them back to the house. My body just will not agree to carrying them again!

Tomorrow I shall plant the small plants if my muscles have recovered enough to build another wind shelter as my vegetable garden is on the top of the aforementioned hill and the wind can be ferocious. In the meantime they are still quite happy in their very social shelter. I wonder if my avocado shelter will still be standing up or if it will have collapsed onto the prima donna?

Now I am off to my friend’s place for dinner for which the cat will shun me when I return, so a lonely night awaits while she sulks in the dining room instead of sleeping on the bed with me! It is not hard to count my blessings. Through all my challenges today, I have a healthy body, lots of purpose in my life, a wonderful, if temporarily absent spouse, great friends and as much as I need of everything important. I give thanks, I give thanks, I give thanks.