Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sagittarian seeks stable home

It is commonplace to hear or read New Zealanders saying 'Housing prices are so high now, I feel sorry for anyone trying to buy their first house these days'. The sympathy is always offered by someone who already owns a house with equity that has increased by many tens of thousands in the past three years and that I assume they would try to sell for the highest possible price (who wouldn't?).

I appreciate your sympathy, really I do. I thought you might be interested to know what it feels like to be in the position of wanting to enter the property market from scratch right now.

My tight budget is entirely oriented towards this goal yet no matter how disciplined my saving, house prices rise faster than my bank balance. Every week I cycle through hope, disappointment and despair as I come up with a new scheme for purchasing a property on a shoestring, investigate the realities of said scheme and face yet again the apparent reality that even the most distant and divey of super-cheapies are out of my reach and to feel minimally safe, comfortable and able to get to work and back in less than a day is way, way beyond my means.

When I tell real estate agents how much I think I can afford (and I always exaggerate slightly), they laugh and then hang up the phone as fast as possible. This was without exception until Val from Kamo Real Estate cold-called me this week and said she liked a challenge and told me she'd been in the same position not that long ago. I am now in a hope phase thanks to her and Mal, the tutor of the home ownership course I am taking.

My current hope phase is perfectly in tune with this week's Sagittarius horoscope from Rob Brezny: "Be ready to imagine the unimaginable, see the unseeable, and think the unthinkable... with the most optimistic attitude possible... the almost unbelievable prospects coming into your sphere are interesting and invigorating."

The apparent reality of the housing market presents as a blank wall but I choose to, have to, decide to, believe that there is a chink somewhere for an optimistic Sagittarian willing to imagine the unimaginable, see the unseeable and think the unthinkable.

Bring it on home!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Waiata Joy

I've stopped saying I can't sing, because lately I've been doing a lot of singing so it would be ridiculous to continue protesting that I can't. What I meant, for all those years of saying I can't sing, is that I can't sing reliably well. My voice still isn't very reliable, but lots of practice, good company and good teachers are helping me to understand more about how to control my voice and how to recognise the range where my voice is strongest and most reliable.

I'm singing waiata (Maori songs) with two separate groups. In the Waiata Class at work, most of the singers are not much more familiar with the songs than me, and while there are a range of singing abilities, we've been progressing together at more or less the same pace. The repertoire is designed for us to use in appropriate work contexts and ranges from funny nursery songs to himine (hymns).

At Waiata Joy (at Pehia Weri Marae on Tuesday evenings) I am the new girl in a loose group that's been singing together all year (and some of them all their long lives). The strength of the singing around me simultaneously carries my voice to a stronger place and helps camouflage my weaknesses. The repertoire there is slightly more weighted to the traditional and himine with lots of patriotic Nga Puhi anthems and old party favourites.

Last night we learned a new song (the first song taught from scratch since I started six weeks ago), a beautiful Maori translation of a Christmas carol called Holy Night. When I first heard the demonstration I was moved to tears, and not only at the assumption that there was no way I could contribute to such an exquisite and complex piece of music. By the end of the evening I had discovered I am an alto, and was singing along... not even close to perfectly, but well enough to be enjoying for the first time in my life the sensation of singing in a four part harmony.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Rahui at Bream Bay

Following the whale strandings and deaths near Whangarei earlier this month, tangata whenu (local Maori) from Patu harakeke - Takahiwai have placed at Rahui (ban) at Bream Bay. A Rahui is a ban on collecting kai moana (sea food) from this area and will last 14 days. Local Maori history recognises the Whangarei Harbour as a resting place and migration route for whales.

There may be health issues as a consequance the many whales that had to be buried at the beach and their possible effect on the water quality. The ban is not legally enforcable, but is tikanga (customary practice).

Monday, November 20, 2006

Snow White

Everything is bursting into bloom with the thrill of warm spring rains. Swathes of green are broken with pink, red, white, yellow, orange blossoms. I'm enjoying the sights but unfortunately my body is responding with a one woman show about seven dwarves: Sneezy, Itchy, Scratchy, Reddy, Bumpy, Swelly and Teary.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tame garden, wild journal

What have I been doing lately instead of composing frequent, witty, thoughtful blogular commentaries on the world around me?

Well, the vege garden is looking very fine at the moment with the first brocolli ready to eat tomorrow and some tiny dark green nubbins of tomatoes popping out. Because its inside a plastic-house I have to water it even when there's been a lot of rain, and because it's sheltered from most wind, watering is a slow and careful exercise of not getting tomato leaves wet (and thus inviting fungi and moulds). So slowly and carefully do I water in fact, that there is plenty of time to pull all the weeds out at the same time.

And I've been making more an effort to socialise (as in actual face to face contact with other human beings in the same room) than I have for oh, at least two or three years. I still enjoy solitude most of the time, but that 'most' is quite a shift away from the hermit-like existence that I was dedicated to when I first moved to Northland 18 months ago. Yesterday I enjoyed visiting my local bibliophile-buddy who likes to lend me books and who has lots of books worth borrowing.

One of the books I borrowed yesterday is called Artist's Journals and Sketchbooks: Exploring and Creating Personal Pages by Lynne Perrella. It's wonderfully inspiring, as I've been really trying for some time to make my journals more colourful, textured, and playful (initially inspired by The decorated page by Gwen Diehn, also good but not quite so juicy). Immediately on arriving home with this book I started playing with my journal, experimenting boldly to various degrees of satisfaction.

One of my favourite things I read is that if you aren't happy with how a page looks you can just paint it all out and start again with another layer. You can do that?! Oh wow, the freedom... I feel like my imagination is all getting all stretchy and succulent as I let go of being precious about what I write and draw and abandon old rules and prejudices about collage and rubber stamps and texture and colour. I'm literally pushing my own artist's book boundaries by letting my journal bulge, buckle, sprawl and splay in an unseemly and undignified manner.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stoat on the Run

Walking up the right side of the road, minding my own business I noticed a very small animal trotting towards me on the left. I stopped and saw that it was a stoat. A few seconds later she* stopped too, peered at me around the enormous mouthful of dead starling fledgling she was carrying, obviously decided I was not worth bothering about, and resumed running.

She ran right past, close enough for me to admire her white chest and notice that her mostly red fur was dripping as though she had just climbed out of the nearby creek. As she passed I turned my head and began to formulate a thought to take a photo.

At that moment she stopped, dropped the bird and in three sinuous leaps she disappeared into the long grass on the side of the road. I walked over to inspect her catch, saw that it wasn't a precious native bird, commended her taste and carried on walking.

*I'm guessing it was a she, taking lunch home for her babies.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Spring Garden

I went round to visit Mt Tiger, where I house-sat this winter.

I got to have some nice cuddles with Bonnie, who I have been missing lots. She hurt her back leg a few weeks ago and isn't allowed to leap or jump until she is fully healed. She's pretty frustrated with being kept inside (and who wouldn't be with a garden like this- full of birds- waiting just outside the window).

Over the winter I thought it was a nice garden but now I see what a wonderland it can be in glorious spring technicolour.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vermin beware

October Garden

Every now and then something shatters my mild-mannered, peace-loving, bodhichitta-aspiring, hippy-dippy default mode of being. Usually vermin of some kind. Long-time readers may remember a certain over-excited rat that inspired a murderous vengeful rage in me. Cockroaches have a similar effect. Snails and slugs feasting on my seedlings can bring on a slightly muted version: not so much a red haze as an orange one, enough to make me buy (organic) snail poison.

Above is a photo of the vege garden taken three weeks ago. Below is a photo of the same garden (different angle) taken today. See how well it is coming along? I am overwhelmed with lettuces and peas needing to be eaten now now now. I tend it lovingly, enjoying the satisfaction only possible in a Very Small Garden: a temporary sense of completion.

November Garden

But! There is a thief enjoying the fruits of my labours. Every morning I see that something has eaten more of the unripe strawberries, still-small, pale green, seedy nubbins that must be awfully sour. My pleasurable anticipation of the enjoying a lush crimson strawberry harvest is dashed on a daily basis. I suspected that the strawberry thief is the same villain who is nibbling my bean seedlings, clattering across the roof and laughing maniacally outside my window at night. Have you guessed yet?

When I was a kid we had a possum wander through our house one evening like a family cat. I remember the hysteria when we realised it wasn't actually cat, but I don't remember how that particular possum problem was solved. My current possum problem made me go looking for a trap. Turns out the humane Timms traps cost more than I want afford (about the price of 10 punnets of strawberries) but then Nola at NRC offered me a Free Once In A Life Time Offer of a 'small bag' of possum poison. Was I interested? Oh yes I was, imagining a small (strawberry punnet sized) bag of poison. When she slung a big old paper sack on the counter I thought she would be siphoning off a portion for me. But no, as I signed the register for my Free Once In A Life Time Offer she explained that 2kg is the small bag. It usually comes in 20kg sacks.

Using a couple of old plastic milk bottles donated by a work mate I have made bait stations and set them up around the garden. After an initial cautious nibble the first night, subsequent nights have seen the possums gorging on poison and even trying to carry some away for midday snacking (I'm guessing this from the trail of blue bait strewn on the ground). I'm glad the poison is being eaten but it is slow acting and unfortunately the possums are still enthusiastically eating every baby strawberry they can find. See below.

Evidence of murderous rage
Exhibit A: strawberry plants with gnawed empty hulls in the foreground
Exhibit B: Bait station with poison in background
Bonus Exhibit: Stump in right background is a nasty tree I tore apart with my bare hands* because it was shading the strawberries, sucking up all the water, threatening to grow through the plastic sheet ceiling and dropping horrible sticky seed pods on everything.
*Have I mentioned that all this gardening is done without any proper tools?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Birds' House

Remember the baby birds I wrote about a few weeks ago? Well they grew up and fledged surprisingly quickly. I would look out at the nest and see six nearly identical birds overflowing for a second before they flew away in response to my attention. I also encountered them in the garden where the young ones were strengthening their wings with flying games that included dive bombing me in quite a startling manner.

Then about a week ago I looked out the bathroom window and didn't see the nest. Peering down I saw a splatter of dried dirt and bird shit on the deck below. Uh oh, the weight of six growing birds was clearly too much for their mud, straw and bird-saliva construction. The teenagers are still hanging around the garden, but I noticed this morning that the parents have started reconstruction. A lip of mud was balancing on the tiny ledge where the last nest had been. By this afternoon it had doubled in size (about a quarter of the full size of the earlier version). Every now and then I glimpse a wee bird flying in with a beak full of mud or a strand of dried grass.

What great role models for persistent commitment to having the home that they want, where they want it, not matter what goes wrong!