Minute

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Not the time unit, but the adjective. Same origin and journey, really, but funnily enough you pronounce them differently 🙂 Don’t get me started!

It occurred to me while talking to some people that not only are the minute things the most annoying but they are also the building bricks of our lives. We live our lives (the good parts, and the bad) second by second, not day by day, and definitely not year by year. Even if we look at events that change lives, we realize that it’s what’s going on before and most often what happens afterwards that make the change, not the events themselves. So with a death, that is over quite quickly, but the lead up to it, and our grief afterwards, change the weave, the pattern and ultimately the fabric of who we are.

They are also the ones that we are not supposed to sweat, that we are supposed to pay attention to and that we are also supposed to be grateful for. Perhaps not at the same time, but the contradiction is there nonetheless. 🙂

So here are some of the minute things of my life, in no particular order:

Having a cat that doesn’t scratch, shed, rip or otherwise damage people and property.

Not having any carpet in the house that a spill would ruin.

A 4×3 cm edition of Pablo Neruda’s “Twenty love poems and a desperate song” in Spanish.

Wooden joinery that gets wet and then doesn’t close properly.

Potatoes that taste of something, a lovely casserole and the stories that go with good company and eating together.

Using a Niwashi Shark to tidy up jasmine – soooo satisfying!

Finding out what a morepork sounds like – I thought it would be a deeper sound… you know how we say to-wheeet – to-whooo when we read to children? Deeper, ain’t it?

Finding out how big your garden actually is when you get around to clearing up.

An app that actually works and does what it says it will.

Finding that exact perfect gift for your friend without even searching for it, just walking by.

Rummaging through the pile of bills and discovering the piece of paper on which you wrote the phone number of the person who’s going to make your life a lot easier.

Mentioning a problem you’re having and someone coming up with a solution that sorts out not only that problem but a few more as well.

Enough for now, I’ll pay attention to more as I go.

Garden – a rant

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I am sure that, should you wish, you could find on YouTube several hilarious videos with bouncy music about the perils of having a garden and not taking care of it. I intend to find those videos and enjoy the companionship 🙂

For a garden is a terrible thing to have… when you don’t have time or money or both. Not that I am complaining much, as I still enjoy having said garden. It just doesn’t look good and that brings me down sometimes. There are a few plants that take over. Weeds, we call them. Pests, really. Invaders, you could say. Wandering jew, orache, bindweed, kikuyu. They make the others look tame by comparison. The other weeds, you see, once you pull them out they’re dead, dead, dead. Not so these ones, unfortunately. Deep under your reach some defeat you with taproots the size of melons. Across the entire garden some defeat you with stolons and nodes and roots that travel to the ends of the world it seems… definitely to the end of your patience! A single fragment left behind and in one season it is back to how it was before you spent that afternoon kneeling and cursing under the blazing sun.

You develop odd types of pleasure it seems. Measuring kikuyu after you pull it out. Discovering moist soil teeming with insects right under that mat of wandering jew that made a tropical looking corner under that bush. Yanking orache out of olive trees or digging that tap root out . Sitting down and willing yourself to patience while you unwind bindweed from your other plants (can’t yank it out, you break everything!).

Mulching would help… except you don’t have anything to mulch with. An animal would help (even benefit from orache and kikuyu)… but you don’t have it. Planting other things would help motivate you to weed more often – if you have the plants to plant there and the time to weed. Frustrating, it was! I have stopped weeding just for the sake of weeding (as in, appearances). I will weed if I want to plant there something. Most of the time it is a bush I have rescued or has been given to me.

I have grown quite fond of my overgrown jungle… most of the time. Of course, then I visit a well tended garden and I don’t feel so good. I take comfort from counting the perrenial edibles currently growing amongst the weeds. In a couple of years there should be enough to show for the work done, an orchard is beginning to take shape. Good signs are here: a handful of blueberries, apples and grapes and peaches ripening, five cherries, lemons, strong healthy growth on the loquat we saved, flowers on the feijoas, the scent of lemon verbena peeking through the towering Jerusalem artichokes, the wavy fronds of asparagus, the rambling fragility of Cape gooseberries.

I have also relented and started buying flowers. A bit of care and the pot-bound yellowing wreck the shop put on special 6 for 1 dollar starts to glow in shades of rainbows. I have seen more bees and bumblebees this year than in all the years before combined! Maybe in a couple of years, when I have planted more flowers, a hive would not come amiss nestled amongs the fruit trees.

One hopes… and weeds! 🙂

Priority

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I was having a Xmas dinner this week with two very good friends in a nice place with lovely food that could be shared… how am I grateful? Let me count the ways…

But I digress. One of the dishes ordered was noodles with prawns and other things in it. I happen to adore prawns so I ate one. Thing is, I cannot eat prawns, I get heartburn every time I try, since about 10 years ago. Sure enough, I got heartburn and suffered for a little while (until I got home and drank chamomile tea and took a teaspoonful of raw honey). Do I regret it? No

But it made me think of choices, especially around health and lifestyles. Say I have this non-threatening issue with prawns. I can put up with the discomfort in order to satisfy a wish. I am also addicted to shopping, which is annoying as I have this wish for financial independence and early retirement (hello, Mr Money Mustache!).

It is about loopholes with personal choice, it seems. The prawn-induced suffering is easily allayed and shopping can be justified in a thousand ways (my favourite ways of justifying un-necessary purchases are 1. buy an edible plant for my garden, preferably perenial, preferably on sale and preferably grown locally; 2. gifts for friends).

But there is an area where loopholes seem to apply waaay less, if at all. That’s the domain of life choice. That’s like personal choice but with a  priority somewhere in the stratosphere! Say I don’t eat red meat. I do, but just as an example. It is my life choice not to eat red meat. There are no health factors contributing to this choice. And say I would go visiting and on the table most of the food either has red meat in it or has been cooked with red meat. There may be some peanuts, a salad, some fruit. I am very, very hungry, ravenous to be precise. Would I eat red meat?

NO. Because it is a life choice, so I would have to fight myself in the most intimate way in order to eat that dish.

Could I be persuaded by others in a non-compulsory way (saving a life is compulsory, friendly peer pressure is not)? Again, NO. I would probably get angry and dig my toes in and that relationship would become quite strained – it’s a question of trust and respect – “don’t you like me the way I am?”.

This applies to many more areas that are apparent at first: the cosmetic products one uses, the jobs we choose, the families we raise, you name it, life choice is at the bottom of a myriad things.

Is it the be all and end all of things? NO! One ignores society, upbringing, time, history and the like at one’s own peril. But it is a very, very powerful thing. How powerful?

Well, how about if I made financial independence a life choice?

*the initial post was crystal clear in my head but logically muddled on screen (hmm…) due to definition issues. Editing done! 🙂

Learn

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Mulch the garden. You have better things to do than weed every single hour you are in the garden.

Don’t plant more than 2 courgette/zucchini plants. You still have the boxes of grated marrows from last year, which you had planned to mix in casseroles.

Enjoy the ranunculus. For the southerly will topple the heavily petticoated blooms to the ground.

Replant before the flowers appear. You do want fruits, don’t you?

Be merciless. That small plant you have ignored? It will take you half a day to cut it back in a year’s time. Yes, that includes jasmine.

Plants are resilient. Especially fig, in the place where you don’t want it.

Cover the strawberries. There are more birds than humans in your garden.

Scatter clippings over your beautifully raked garden bed. Your neighbours’ cats see your garden as the toilet anyway, do you have to give them a litter box as well?

Crush snails. Dig them in.

Try to crush slugs when they’re small, later only sharp implements can help – yuk! Or hedgehogs.

Speaking of hedgehogs, don’t poke your ungloved hands in a pile of leaves.

Speaking of hedgehogs again, go around your car in the morning and have a good look down the driveway. Those creatures are worth their weight in gold. Or slugs 🙂

Be patient and resigned. You may never have the lilac and paeony you desire. But it’s worth a try.

Save the bumblebee queen. They are heavier and less delicate than honeybees. Your flowers don’t really care.

Ignore the roses. Once the delicate grafts have died down, the rootstock will outlast you. You may even get some rosehips.

Plant garlic. Nothing so satisfying as anticipating using it in 6 months’ time… except maybe actually using it and enjoying it – congratulations, you are now self-sufficient in garlic!

Consider visiting the open gardens during the festival. But only on good days. You will feel inadequate anyway.

Smell the hyacinths, daffodils, wait for the snowdrops, admire the cherry blossoms and stop to stare at magnolias. Rhododendrons will follow.

Encourage the pansies and the marigolds.

Go to sleep. 🙂