Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Help Thy Neighbour




Most of us are trying to sell something. My absentee neighbours have been trying to sell their historic stone cottage with two well kept acres for yonks. 

One frost free Sunday over the winter, I decided to do some passive front gate selling myself.  I piled up horse poo in the front paddock, shovelled it into empty Tux dog biscuits sacks and tied them securely with green binder twine snipped off hay bales. It was eco-mama-recycle-Michael and green-waste-for-cash all in one.

The kids refused to help. They sat inside checking facebook while watching TV. Thankfully one relented and painted a sign for me in vibrant red. So I finished the job by arranging my wares beneath the posh navy blue real estate sign on our shared driveway.

Sadly, like some of my other creative marketing pursuits this horse poo malarkey has not been a big earner. It didn’t help that the kids bolted up the drive and hurled my five sacks, into the nearby ditch, if any visitor of note was due. Potential boyfriends, birthday party guests and the like. 

On more than one occasion my wares were obscured from view, languishing in a muddy drain for weeks at a time.

However, last Thursday three months after going on-sale, four sacks went missing. Holy Toledo. Had the kids hidden them completely or had some urban gardener decided my horsey poo was the gas. Looking under my cast to one side sign I discovered to my delight two damp $5 notes. I promptly put them in our, ‘family travel’ jar. 

Then I grabbed four empty horse feed sacks and raced over to a pile of HP in the orchard. Glorious stuff. It had composted its cloddy clompy self over winter. It was like that pure black powder you pay $15+ at the garden centre for. Hells bells, I didn’t know if you just left mini mountains of manure in time out, it turned into liquid gold.

By now the premium real estate sign at the gate had popped off its frame, only one thing to do; make an attractive HP arrangement to prop it up. Pushing the thought that it may have been the neighbour who’d caved in and bought my four sacks to tidy up le grand entrance. Never.

We’re a sell sell situation. Luxury poo, luxury real estate. I wondered for a moment about putting my prices up but didn’t want to get done by Fair Gate Trading or a Consumers R Us watchdog.

Talking of advertising gimmicks, initially I’d wanted to call my manure, ‘Witchie Poo’. I always like to be original. Plus there is a lot of equine compost roadside where I live which catchy nomenclature like, ‘posh pony plops’ etc. However, I thought the addition of the word, WITCH might confuse my potential green fingered customers. 

Plus I didn’t want the 46 cats that live at the end of our road, opposite the Cat Rescue lady’s house (another story entirely) to worry there was a real life sorceress boiling up her cauldron nearby. Nor did I want to frighten the young children next door (well only for a moment).

Now that I’m a professional photographer. My rep will help their rep and so on and so forth. Kidding kidding. I’m not really a pro. Although I have just banked a cheque for a photo sold to a glossy magazine. (See October issue of North & South). And professional does mean: ‘taking part in an activity...as a means of livelihood.’  

Well it all adds up. Lively hood aside.

Lastly, for any gardeners not converted to the benefits of adding HP to their soil, check out the size of this baby:


I’m am now so enraptured with the benefits of this, fat-worm-filled humus-rich grass waste product I am currently curing a 100% PURE no dig potatoe and kumara patch. 

Oh yes. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Lightning Does Strike Twice?



Apparently lightning does strike twice. The Empire State building has been jolted 23 times.

A similar electrical bolt travelled down our phone line on Tuesday night. Blowing out our landline and our router box. Net result: no Wifi. For FIVE days. The kids were lost. They resorted to watching pirated (not by anyone in this house) dvd’s on their laptops. I was forced to do something reckless.

Without Google, at my fingertips, I had to resort to traditional means of research. A method not often used even in schools these days. I had to look in a thing with a spine, fine print, and professional photos that don’t require loading. I had to look in a reference BOOK.

I packed my laptop and went to my local library. A calm place I frequent, usually for armfuls of leisure reading (renewed before I’m through) and a chat with the friendly librarians, who haven’t lost their jobs due to local body cost cutting.

I keyed in, ‘lightning strikes’ onto the computerized-search-system. Obviously no books have been written purely about electrical storms.  Not to look like a twit I scanned the reference section, on foot.

Bingo. I found, ‘WEATHER, The Ultimate Book of Meteorological Events’.

I lugged the heavy tome to a desk. And discovered all sorts of things which may give me nightmares at random times in the future. Because the father of my three gorgeous children, himself a thrill seeker and regular fun guy, loves to take a spa in a storm.

Snow storms mostly, but last Tuesday when we were delivered, FOC, a rock-et concert of sorts. A THUNDERSTORM.

He said to the children, ‘great night for a spa.’

Our spa pool sits on the roof of our grass roofed house; perfect for star gazing and moon watching. And in this instance, perfect for getting up close and personal with LIGHTNING.

While my precious family subjected themselves to, ‘nature’s fireworks’, I caught up on old recordings of the insipid, Mr Selfridge. And wondered how I’d get four fried humans out of the spa pool before they drowned, and administer mouth to mouth before they died?

It was no cheap show. Thunder clapped and jaggered daggers of lightning seemed to bounce off the lawn in quick succession.

My research told me that people hit by lightning do not carry an electrical charge. Not that that had been a concern. It was more the weight of them. It also said CPR can revive most people who’ve been hit, and the primary cause of death is by heart failure, not burns as often believed. I really must do that First Aid course.

‘OMG it was like rockets blasting off around you,’ they said, once back inside.

Only 100 people die per year in the US from lightning strikes, with 258 receiving LCI, lightning caused injuries.

The aforementioned father takes a practical approach to the forces of nature. So I wasn’t surprised that while spa-ing he’d convinced the children (despite them all being reasonably intelligent and aged 10, 13 & 14) that his empty Speights can, placed beside the spa pool would act as an anode.

Oh yes, that little can would suck up the 200-million-volt-electrical-charge, should it STRIKE. Thus saving them from mortal danger. If he was a real southern man he would have offered to hold onto the can standing beside the pool. Getting out of water and boats is recommended.

Or better still just leave the spa empty of human targets, with the lid off. At 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit a jolt, one hit would reduce the water heating bill for a day or two.

It may have been during all the rooftop fun and frivolity that the “…high-voltage electrical charge between a cloud and the earth…lasting only few tenths of a second” zip zapped down our phone line.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t making a call at the time. I may have singed my ear.  Taps are also best avoided, connected to copper piping and all. Plus small electric appliances, which have been reduced to ugly paperweights in Florida. Real thunderstorm country.

FYI lightening travels from the ground TO the cloud, not the other way. But the jagged channels they follow are actually formed by the cloud to the ground a split second before the lightening.

Next time you’re outside during a thunder storm and you feel the hairs prickle on the back of your neck; drop your metal golf clubs and don’t stand under a tall tree. That feeling is the electricity forming its channel.

‘Ancient Africans believed the people who were struck by lightning had incurred the wrath of gods. These lightning strikes were considered bolts of justice.”

Mmm let’s hope lightning doesn’t strike twice at our place.

I checked my reference book out and took it home. Still admiring its vibrant coffee-table-sized-photo-filled bookiness. I’ll dip back into it at my leisure. I’ll check out other weather phenomenon. No need to press a switch, click on a tab or search browser history for bookmarks I failed to store.

The children may find it interesting too. In fact I’ll leave it lying around for all the family. It’s mine for three weeks. Six if no one requests it.

After all, it’s a book.

Footnote: (from the internet, which is back on phew) “Weather guru Bob McDavitt said the death toll in New Zealand for lightning strikes was about one a decade, while farm stock deaths was about several per year.”
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Modern Manners & HHD Etiquette


Sometimes I must enter, Noel Leemings – ‘NZ’s leading retailer for appliances and electronics’, to collect the small kitchen items afforded me by the Fly Buys points scheme. To date, I’ve acquired three toasters and one soda stream machine. And continued poor service. 

On Saturday I went to get a replacement gas bottle for my soda stream. I strode up to the counter. And waited. To my left, a stripe shirted staff member with eyes and forefinger glued to his hand held device, was bent over another working on a computer. 

Neither men glanced toward me in way of greeting. I did not stoop to join them and look at my own HHD. Instead, I looked around for someone to serve me. 

No one was nearby, so I returned my gaze to the pair. And waited. What felt like several minutes later, the stripe shirted one sashayed over, eyes still glued to his HHD, forefinger scrolling. He picked up my empty cylinder. 

‘Just checking your emails?’ I asked. 

He looked at me for the first time and smiled. ‘Yes,’ he said. Not in an embarrassed way, but in a way that assumed I endorsed his rudeness. 

Casually he slipped his phone into his black pants pocket. Then sloped off out the back. On his return I checked his name badge. I’ll call him John. John, I read to my horror was also, ‘The Boss’. 

Really? He looked a bit young. Twenty something? His oddly trimmed facial hair gave him a gnome-like appearance. The boss of what? Using company WIFI for checking facebook statuses during working hours? He wore a blackish silver neck chain and a ring in the shape of a bony hand.  I doubted he was checking online sales figures per store in the hope of increasing his.

‘If you collect three tags you get a free flavouring,’ he said, keying in my purchase. ‘$12.50. Do you want a bag?’

‘No thanks,’ I said. We don’t use the flavourings. They taste yuk. And the kids use them up within 24 hours. I just fizz our bore-drawn pure mountain water and add a wedge of lemon. Cheapest eco sparkling around.

As I walked back to the car I wished  I‘d invested in a second gas bottle. Anything to delay my return. I also felt a bit sad about the world, its HHD addiction and the fact that minding your P’s and Q’s seems to be a dying art. Because if John was actually the boss, what chance did his staff have?

Manners obviously do not maketh the Noel Leeming man.

Previously I’d dropped, daughter 15, at her first tax paying job. In a shoe shop. She believes she impressed her employers during her interview, with social skills formed around the family dinner table. She applauds her father and I for enforcing GOOD MANNERS. Refusing to produce meals and snacks without correctly placed, ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’. 

In fact, she has been repeatedly thanking me for ‘her good manners’ lately. While bemoaning the shortcomings of her peers. Her thanks feel like payback. I like it.

On Monday I filled my car with 96 unleaded, and four teenagers, then set off for Dunedin as parent help on a 48 hour school trip. On departure the mother of one of my charges handed me, a packet of almond fingers and an envelope of petrol and ice cream money. 

‘You’ll deserve it,’ she said, ‘I owe you.’

‘Ohh, THANK YOU,’ I said.

(Petrol money is offered to the driver/parent help, on most school trips). In this case I was getting a theatre ticket, marae pass and sushi dinner so no recompense required.

On the return journey we stopped in the small town of Lawrence. I handed over the donated $20 and said, ‘what’s 4 into 20?’ Thankfully they all said 5 and happily ran to the dairy.

The lady serving was grumpy. Even more so when I asked if they had any more orange chocolate chip. She changed the ice cream carton over. 

‘How many litres do they hold?’ I asked.

’16,’ she replied. 'Single or double?'

The kids bought thick shakes, cans of coke, strawberry chews and some smelly food free crunchy things. They all thanked me profusely and littered the car with wrappers. Happiness filled. 

‘Don’t thank me. Thank Sam’s mum,’ I said. ‘This is her shout.’

Two hours later we arrived back at our starting point. I was thanked by my charges and their parents; relieved I’m sure to have their safe return. Except for one kid who ran off to find his parent. I saw them on the other side of the car park. All of five metres away. I waved goodbye. They departed. An oversight perhaps? I was jolly keen to get home too.

A couple of days later I received a hand written postcard from the teachers. I was touched. As I read about how creative and enthusiastic I was. How trips like this would not be possible without parents like ME. My memory of cleaning six hairy toothpaste splattered basins, scrubbing bogs, mopping floors, sleeping mattress to mattress in a room with 67 bodies, plus 8 hours driving while participating in a full volume YA survey, faded happily into the background.

If manners don’t come from the boss, maybe you get them at school.

(photo: street signage, Lawrence. Colin says what?)

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