I have two green thumbs

My parents are both very proficient, yet very different, gardeners in their own right. Dad is all about neat straight rows, planting by the moon, side dressing, and crop rotation. Mum‘s veggie garden, on the other hand, consists of irregular-shaped round-edged raised beds scattered with Oamaru stone chips (the filings from the sculptures she taps into relief with a tomahawk) and dotted with marigolds and poppies, with the odd giant silver beet plant that’s been intentionally left to go to seed. Straight lines and curved edges: maybe that’s why they didn’t work out as a couple.

My garden contains certain elements from each parent – the cherry tomatoes are evenly spaced, de-lateraled and wound carefully around the baling twine that ties them to tall bamboo stakes. The coriander and spinach are planted in neat diagonal rows, but the self-seeded sunflowers which are remnants from last year’s gardener have come up in random spots, which doesn’t bother me at all.

I’ve made a haphazard trellis for my sugar snap and snow peas to climb up: it’s a bit wonky and trailed with little scraps of string which I’ve attached to try and guide my little babies in the right direction. One of my zucchinis is looking awesome, but the other, only half a metre away, looks like it would be happier pulled out and thrown over the bank, which is probably where it will end up soon. This is good, because then I’ll have more room for basil, sweet and Thai – I love basil.

I also scattered marigold seeds from a small brown envelope that I’d been carrying around with me for the last two years, given to me by a friend. I wasn’t sure if they’d still be any good but a few have come up, again in random places. I made a tripod of bamboo and wound string around it for my Lebanese cucumbers, and I have sweet peas growing in pots on the verandah; the first flower opened today and the smell is amazing. I love how peas send out their little tendrils, reaching blindly for something to grasp on to, and how, once found, they cling on for dear life, wrapping those tendrils up into tight little ringlets.

I also have a very hot chili plant (a rocoto) in a pot on the verandah. It survived travelling by car from Auckland to Nelson, and the four subsequent house moves since then. There was another, even hotter chili but it didn’t quite make it. After waking up in the middle of the night with my hands on fire from the vapours released by dropping the freshly chopped pieces into the pan hours before, I have to admit, it was probably for the best. I love chilies, but even I have limits. The rocoto is manageable as long as I don’t use more than a quarter in a meal for one. They’re so juicy that flecks of fire water sometimes try to jump into my eyes when I cut them – I’ll have to remember to either stand well back or wear sunnies when this season’s ones ripen.

I was watching a short clip on YouTube the other night. It was of a guy (a proponent of the ‘primal’ diet) showing how quick and easy it is to make a delicious and nutritious salad for lunch. He opened his refrigerator and pulled out a myriad of Tupperware containers filled with pre-washed and pre-chopped salad ingredients, threw it all together with some leftover meat (for the protein factor of course) and voila! What the hell is primal about that? If you didn’t hunt or raise the meat yourself, the least you could do is grow your own veggies and pick them fresh for each meal.

There is something infinitely rewarding, calming and satisfying about growing your own food. I’m grateful that gardening is in my blood, and much of what I do is either instinct or intuition rather than acquired knowledge – I own one gardening book, which I’m yet to read. Usually I just give the plant what I think it needs; what I would need if I was that plant. If that fails I ask Dad.

Even in the crummiest places I’ve lived, even in the shadiest corners of Dunedin, I’ve pretty much always managed to put a few plants in the ground. I can’t wait to get to a place where I know I’ll be staying for a good while, then I can make a real garden, one that I know I won’t have to walk away from. One more move should do it.


people like people like themselves

When I was thinking about starting a blog, my rationale for doing so was based around a feeling of having a head full of knowledge and information and ideas and thoughts and experiences that I wanted to get out. I wanted an outlet for writing creatively, but I also liked the idea that my words might help or inspire or motivate other people. I guess, in a way, I was wanting to connect with other people like me.

I spent a fair amount of time browsing other people’s blogs before I found any that caught my interest. None of the blogs I currently follow have anything to do with health or fitness. The blog posts that really glue my eyes to the screen talk about the stuff under the surface: doubt, fear, self-analysis, self-acceptance (or lack of), sexuality, abuse, failure, relationships, friendships, and just how shit life sometimes is. This is the stuff that really gets me going. The blog I currently enjoy reading the most is written by someone of a different gender, generation, geographic location and sexual orientation than me. I have nothing in common with this person; yet his writing speaks to me in a language I understand: the language of a thoughtful introvert.

They say the sign of a true friendship is one where months or even years can go by with little to no contact, yet when you get together it seems as if no time has gone by since you last met, and there are no feelings of guilt for not keeping in touch or expectations around what you should have accomplished or achieved since last time.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of spending a few days with some people I did a year-long outdoor course with 13 years ago. Some of them I’d caught up with over the years and some I hadn’t, and the range of paths we’d each gone down was vast: from working in the outdoors to running businesses, raising families to working on farms. Yet there was no judgement whatsoever, nobody was better or worse than the next person because of what they had or hadn’t achieved. Mostly we just laughed a lot and reminisced about the good old days of pooing in the bush and wrapping canoes around rocks.

So much of life is about ambition and success. How much money we make, what car we drive, how nice our house is, what new gadgets we own; trying to project an air of success by pushing our successes on others. This isolates people. It doesn’t help people know that they’re not alone, it doesn’t tell people that it’s okay to feel like shit every now and then, and that feeling like shit is part of life and is equally as important as feeling awesome. It’s the shit that defines us more than the successes do. I think so anyway. It’s also reassuring to know that the people we perceive as being successful don’t always see themselves that way.

What is success anyway? I guess it depends on what your goals are. One of my benchmarks for success is waking up early, without an alarm, feeling rested and ready for the day. Whatever happens after that is of lesser importance, but it’s bound to be good. Waking up late, feeling tired and grumpy is usually the precursor to a shit day for me. So you can see, money and material gains aren’t necessarily measures of success in my book.

I’m not really that concerned with how much money you make, but I do want to know about the mettle of your character. I want to know if you treat other people the way you’d like to be treated even if it doesn’t seem to be paying off right now (trust me, give it time and it will). I want to know how you respond to adversity and hardship, not how many properties you own or how expensive your clothes are. I want to know whether you’re willing to address the unresolved stuff in your life, or if you’re pushing it back to the darkest recesses of your mind in the hope that if you ignore it for long enough it’ll go away. I want to know if you learn from your mistakes, or are you continually repeating the same behaviours expecting to get a different outcome.

I think all each of us ever wants is just to be accepted for who we are, and to be comfortable with who that person is. We just want to be liked, by other people, like ourselves.