Archive for June, 2007

The Winter Solstice Approaches

Friday, June 15th, 2007

The winter solstice is approaching, and it is still unseasonably warm. We have not had a frost here yet, though friends down on the flats have. We are still picking peas and a few peppers from the garden, and the broad beans that I planted in autumn have started to flower already.

Still, it has started to feel a bit wintry, mostly because we have finally had a decent dump of rain. The claggy clay soil in our house paddock is now making seasonally-appropriate squishing and sucking noises under my trusty gumboots. Best of all, our new dam is now full. Kevin and I walked up the hill the day after the rain cleared, and found that it is full to the brim, with some water coming out the overflow. Seeing our dam full for the first time gives us immense satisfaction!

The dam is full

The cold and damp weather has also had some less desirable effects. A few resourceful rodents have been driven to seek better living arrangements. Alas, they have moved into the house with us, and we now have a mouse problem. Last year we had no difficulty trapping the mice with a bit of peanut butter, but this year’s mice seem not to like peanut butter or cheese! We are really starting to wonder how we can get rid of these creatures.

Though the weather is unseasonably warm, I’m glad to say that it has been cold enough to stop the white cabbage moths in their tracks. Instead, we are seeing increasing numbers of praying mantis in the garden. We imagine they are cleaning up all the other bugs and insects that multiplied in the garden over the summer and autumn. Yesterday, as Kevin worked at the computer, he felt he was being watched. Looking up, he saw a big green mantis at the window, staring in at him with its hundreds of eyes.

Farmlet Readers Contribute $20, $10 and $25

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

The following Farmlet readers recently sent contributions:

CS $20
AS $10
Eileen $25

Thank you all very much!

Becky Is Pregnant

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Becky and I have been keeping a secret for a few months, but we’d like to share it now.

Our first child is due in the middle of November.

Back in March, in response to a story about college students having to pay more for birth control pills, I wrote about the Ladycomp, an incredible device from Germany that allows women to avoid pregnancy without the use of dangerous drugs or barrier methods. In a comment on that post, Cryptogon reader KL wrote:

OK, I will fall in the trap … Why aren’t you and Becky procreating? Don’t we need more of your kind, and less of the jesus-nut-neocon-dimwit type?

(Kevin, I am not telling you to have children, I’m just wondering why you aren’t doing so in such a lovely environment, because I’d want about nine kids running around such a farm.)

It was practically killing me to keep the secret that Becky and I had already started using the Ladycomp for a different purpose than the intended one. You see, the Ladycomp is setup to help women avoid pregnancy, but when a couple decides to conceive a child…

This might be more information than you want to know, but we got it right on the first try.

Becky knew she was pregnant pretty quickly and booked an appointment to see the doctor, so we could register with the midwives. The doctor is a smart woman, but she initially doubted that Becky could know she was pregnant so soon. A quick urine test later and, yep, there was the answer.

I told the doctor the story about the Ladycomp and she was very skeptical that “it” happened on the first try. The dialog with the doctor went like this:

“You avoided pregnancy for three years without using contraception, and then got your wife pregnant the first time you were actually trying to conceive?”

“Yes, that’s right,” I said.

“What’s that thing called?” she asked, still not really believing the story.

“Just type ‘ladycomp’ into Google. It’s a registered medical device from Germany.”

She wrote it down.


Now, when we mentioned the Ladycomp story to our midwife (who’s from the Netherlands), she didn’t even blink, “Oh yeah, that’s good.” When I said that it was nice to find someone who knew about the Ladycomp, she said that lots of women use it in Europe, no big deal. Of course, I couldn’t help myself and started talking about the poison pushing pharmaceutical companies and how many American women are brain washed into using dangerous drugs to avoid pregnancy. She kinda smiled, shook her head and said, “America… America is a funny place.”

“Yeah, but the joke is getting old,” I said. So much for maintaining appearances in public. Oh well.

The fact that Becky and I are both eating a Weston A. Price style diet almost certainly contributed to the effort. Everyone knows people in their thirties or even twenties who are incapable of having children. Often, when you look at their lifestyles, you have to wonder how they’re alive at all. Lots of soda, white bread, nutrasweet, polluted air, water and food. Toxic jobs. Lobotomizing television. Lots of dangerous prescription drugs for anything that ails ya… And increasing numbers of people aren’t able to have children. Imagine my shock.

When I was in the U.S., I was absolutely sure that I didn’t want children. This is how I summed up the situation back then: You’d have to be fully insane to want to bring a child into this living Hell. I’ll get by as best as I can and that will be the end of it. No need to involve a child in this horror. Isn’t that a nice outlook?

Then again, I hadn’t met Becky at that point.

Now that we’ve left the U.S. for good, the situation is very different. I don’t see the end of the world right in front of my face every minute of the day out here. In fact, I’m only reminded of it when I look at this computer screen. I’m not constantly wondering about how I’m going to be screwed over next. Not having to show up to an office is a life altering experience in and of itself. Living debt free is another revelation. Breathing clean air, drinking clean water and eating clean food; it’s amazing how living a sane existence can change one’s outlook.

We’re happy here. We think our baby will be happy here too.

Cleaning House

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Cleaning the house certainly isn’t the most popular job here on the Farmlet. This would be obvious to anyone who sees the cobweb collection around our windows. Yes, Kevin and I both have a soft spot for spiders, but that’s not the only reason why this place is starting to look like the haunted house. The cobweb situation has been getting out of control. (Actually, Kevin had a “pet” spider called Igor for a while — a fabulously fat black arachnid, who lived outside the front door and had a hearty appetite for fly carcases. He/she seems to have moved on, now.)

Although some of the house-cleaning tasks are not our favourites, I can say that I take a real satisfaction in finding ways to clean the house that are kind to the environment and to our wallets. Annie Berthold-Bond’s Better Basics for the Home, and Karen Logan’s Clean House Clean Planet have lots of fantastic ideas along these lines.

Today, as the rain poured down, I dusted and washed the insides of some of our windows. Then it was time to clean the bathroom. I imagine that a lot of people will already be familiar with these tricks for eliminating the use of expensive/toxic cleaning products, but felt inspired to share a few of them, in case they are of interest to someone.

Washing windows? Use hot water with some white vinegar and a tiny bit of liquid soap in it. Dry and polish with screwed/up pieces of newsprint paper. You can use newspaper for this, but I don’t like the black smudges it puts on hands — and windowsills and walls if you are not careful. We save any plain newsprint we find (in packaging and so forth) for this purpose.

Cleaning tubs and tiles? Scoop a bit of baking soda onto the dirty surface, add a squirt of liquid soap, mix them together, and you’ve got a cream cleaner that will bring a shine to the grubbiest bathroom sink. Baking soda cuts through grease, is a mild abrasive, deodorant, and disinfectant. Pretty neat stuff.

Removing coffee and tea stains from mugs and other kitchen items? Another job for the baking soda. Baking soda also helps clean grease and baked-on grime from baking pans and other kitchen utensils.

Cleaning the toilet? Drop 1/2 cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl, and scrub thoroughly. Now add 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar. It will fizz like mad. Leave to sit for a while before flushing. Of course, we can’t use this method on our composting toilet! Unfortunately, our flush toilet gets pretty crusty, even if we hardly ever use it, because of out water supply. The water comes from a spring, and leaves discolouring and mineral residues in the toilet bowl. We’d have to use something stronger than baking soda and vinegar to solve this problem. Maybe borax? But I haven’t found any borax in the Kaitaia shops. . . and we are happy enough to put up with a bit of discolouration, as long as the bathroom is clean and fresh.

Note: We’d love to have a go at making our own soap at some stage. When I looked at the cost of buying materials to make soap, however, it started to look like an expensive project. We are lucky to have access to good quality and affordable liquid and bar soap (made using vegetable oils, and free of toxic chemicals) in the ready-made form, for the time being. We buy these in bulk. Even better than buying oil and lye for soap-making, would be to make our own oil and lye. . . but I think we’ve got a few other projects to tackle before we go there!

Entrance Garden

Friday, June 1st, 2007

Imagine you are visiting the Farmlet: As you come through the gate into the house paddock and head for our front door, there is a narrow strip of garden running along to your left, between the concrete footpath and the side of the house. (There are now vegetable beds on the other side of the path.) When Kevin and I moved onto the Farmlet in March 2006, this was the only area of cultivated garden on the entire place. Through the first autumn and winter, while we worked on preparing more space for our vegetable gardens, we crammed as many vegetable plants as we could into that little strip of garden. It has produced all kinds of vegetables over the past year, from celery, collards, kale and swiss chard, to peppers, potatoes and garlic. By now, we have more space available elsewhere for planting vegetables, so we have started converting this strip of garden that runs along our entrance path for another purpose.

Path between “entrance” garden and veggie beds

Because this entrance garden is on the eastern side of the house, it gets plenty of sunlight, especially in the mornings. Also, because it is close against the downhill side of the house, it is protected from any cold currents of frosty air coming down the hill. It’s an excellent site for frost tender plants that might be marginal for our climate if grown in more exposed parts of the house paddock. We hope that one day the house will be lined with a row of perennial fruit trees (mostly frost-tender sub-tropicals), inter-planted with a few herbs and flowers for ground cover and extra colour.

At the moment, a few vestiges of the vegetable garden still remain — some swiss chard and the occasional potato. These will eventually be phased out, as the garden transforms. Already in the garden are a passionfruit vine (for which we need to erect a trellis on the fence next to the gate), a pepino, two young tamarillo plants, a red hibiscus and a couple of perennial chili peppers. A couple of days ago, I added a naranjilla to the mix. I’ve started all these plants from seed, except for the naranjilla, which we picked up from a local nursery. It’s fun to be on the lookout for more tasty morsels to propagate or plant in this sheltered garden.