Opshopping highlights – February/March

My opshopping habits have changed in recent years. I go much less often, I buy much less, and I try not to buy stuff for other people like I used to. (Sometimes I see absolutely perfect gifts, and break this rule…mind you.) However, I do still love a good rummage. Here are the best ‘thrift scores’ of the last two months.

I bought these two cups just because I instantly fell for the colours, the glossy glaze and the leaf motif. The mark on the bottom says ‘Tams ENGLAND’. After some internet research, I found that they were from a pottery in Staffordshire started by John Tams in 1875. These cups are from the 1970s.

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We have PLENTY of cups (I have a weakness for a nice cup) and Fraser has forbidden me to buy more…but if there are new cups I really can’t resist, I wriggle around this rule by culling a couple from the cupboard and returning them to the flow of the shop of opportunity…

I also found this raised relief rose vase – I’ve been on the scope for one for a long time, found plenty, but they are usually chipped to hell and in shabby condition. This one does have a couple of tiny chips, but is in the best condition I have ever seen. Very stoked to find this. I’ve probably been looking for one for at least five years. (Do you have a running list of things you are searching for from the op-shop?)


Cotton 1970s tunic, in amazing condition, given it’s vintage – who could resist this happy green and navy print?


A PRISTINE Poole dish in the most dreamy colour. I may have panted slightly when I spotted this.


& in the category of ‘bought just for my amusement’ – this 1940s recipe book. I love the font on the cover, it’s full of classic wartime NZ advertisements, lots of gag-worthy recipes, unmentionable things done to offal (like poaching it in milk) and horrible slimey desserts (junket with nutmeg, anyone?)


I love this diagram of the best way to organise your kitchen shelves, a la Mrs Beeton, 1943:


I thought it was odd that there was a section on ‘Marketing’ in the sub-title. I thought ‘Oh maybe they mean how to present your jams and cakes for selling at stalls, etc’ but no! The verb ‘marketing’ in 1943 meant GOING TO THE MARKET, and the ‘marketing’ section is tips for savvy and frugal shopping and how to not be outwitted by shop-owners.


Maybe we should reclaim it and instead of ‘going to the supermarket’ we could say ‘I’m supermarketing?’ Aaaand, maybe not.

Anyway, thank you PN op-shop goddesses, for some great finds so far this year.


Apple season

Apple cheeks, apple weeks, the race against the birds…

The inherited tree which has the codlin moth – I know it’s time to strip the tree when the birds begin to peck at the apple tops – this means they are sweet and ready. Cutting around the moth tunnels, making apple sauce which turn into breakfast or crumbles or just eaten with a teaspoon standing at the fridge when I realise I’m starving but have to do the school run in two minutes. (I continue to ‘battle’ against the codlin moth. They are determined creatures.) The commitment of using seasonal abundance. It’s a gift, sure, but it’s work. Sometimes hours and hour of work. Sitting at the table, making the meditation ‘can I take all the peel off in one go?’ Buckets and buckets of practice later tell me that I can’t, but it’s fun trying.

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The Ballerina apple tree which was a wedding present 20 years ago, and moved with us from flat to flat in a big pot, finally planted into the ground here and produces the most beautiful green and red apples, like the ones from Snow White…


This tree on an abandoned section – the way fruit trees give and give, regardless of how they are tended or neglected. Walking onto ‘private property’ to pick the apples. Respecting the tree’s gift more than the human’s claim. Not wanting the generosity of the tree to go unnoticed, unappreciated. Leaving plenty for the birds.


At my permaculture course, Duncan brings two beautiful baskets of apples from his small farm. Four heritage varieties – enough for everyone to take a few home to taste. On the permaculture course, people are passionate about plants, about fruit trees, about the earth. People have strong opinions – in discussion time the debates are weighty, rich, sometimes a little heated…but at lunch time, we sit around munching Duncan’s apples. That they are fine, crisp, tasty apples, we all agree on.

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The beauty of the simple backyard apple, wet from being rinsed in cold water, fresh-picked off the tree.


the huge scruffy melange of humanity

Some days you can really feel the fire – then other days, you are like a squished snail or a washed-up jellyfish and you wonder where the fiery-you with the self-belief and the staunch intent went…but it’s all in there…different bits surface on different days…the trick is to not pay either state too much mind….it’s all just the huge scruffy melange of humanity inside you. everything nothing

I’m only in it for the aesthetics


Not really. But I do get enormous pleasure from taking my twee basket and a sharp knife out to the garden and seeing what is ready to eat, filling the basket with a bit of this, a bit of that…and then just enjoying looking at it for a while, before prepping the vegetables for cooking or fridge storage.


Sometimes I wonder if the internet needs more photographs of vegetables that I grew…but if there is always room for more cat pictures, then I reckon there’s room for my photos of cavolo nero, too. It’s a handsome vegetable, cavolo nero, don’t you think? Dignified.


‘nature’ will not let your plans get in the way of her onward romping…

I love weeds. I love plants which sprout in cracks, parking lots, on barren concrete rooftops. I have a fascination and somehow, an admiration (while respecting what a terrible pest some of these plants become) for when plants go dominantly feral and take over, in the vein of the ‘terrible beauty’ concept that Yeats coined.

Type in ‘Kudzu, USA‘ to google images and you will see what I mean. Known as ‘the vine that ate the south’, this plant was introduced to the USA from Japan and is now rampant in the south, taking over whole buildings, whole abandoned towns. It is awesome, in the original meaning of the word. It fills me with awe. It also fuels the part of my imagination that ponders what the world might look like without humans, post-humans.

Whenever I see plants ‘pushing back’, I always stop in my tracks and contemplate the scene. Or abandoned places where the plants have been left to do what they will without our weeding, clipping and manicuring.

I love the way the roots of this tree have escaped the tidy concrete box it was planted in. Isn’t this a potent visual metaphor? Don’t we all feel like this sometimes? That we are outgrowing the parametres of our lives? Pushing past our received roles?


This is a shed in the back of an abandoned house I passed on a walk. Whenever I see abandoned places I go and have a mooch around, always curious about the terrain post-people. I don’t know if you can see, but the shed is full of plants, convolvulus, jasmine and self-seeded pittosporums…and what was once a vegetable bed to the right is now a sea of convolvulus.


This is a glasshouse at the back of a place (a beautiful place!) where we holiday sometimes. An aloe has been left to grow and grow and grow in a glasshouse, to the point it has smashed through the glass (can you imagine the upwards and outwards force needed by the plant to break glass? Amazing.) Isn’t there something kind of awful and wonderful about it, all at once?




I will not be stopped by your ridiculous human edges, borders and constraints…say the plants, through their actions. This indomitable onwards energy is what I love about nature.


I’m going to be speaking at this symposium, WORKING WITH NATURE coming up next month. I’m very excited by the topic – a topic close to my heart and much on my mind pretty much all the time. I kind of drives me a little crazy that humans talk so much about ‘nature’ as something separate from ourselves, when we are so obviously part of nature. We ARE nature. All life is symbiotic. I also SEE through my yoga teaching, how removed from ‘nature’ people can be in terms of how removed from their breath and body they are and the amazing beneficial effects of returning to body awareness and deep conscious breath.

‘I’m an animal…and you’re an animal, too’. -Neko Case

Kirtan Camp 2015 – love gets sweeter everyday …

A few weeks back, I went to Kirtan Camp in the Otaki Gorge. (Kirtan is ‘yoga of sound’, essentially.) It was three nights, three days of beautiful nature, yoga, music, chanting, vegetarian food and lovely people.

It was my treat to myself of deep ‘me time’ after the family-centred intensity that is the summer school holidays. It was restful, and both inspiring AND contemplative. It ended with a Shamanic sound healing journey by Sika Deer, which might sound like the waftiest woo woo thing ever, but I experienced as a powerful healing experience. Like most things which shake you to the foundations and change you forever….words really do fail and I am too protective of this experience to attempt to say too much more about it…but should you ever get the chance to experience Sika’s healing work – jump at it!

I had a love affair with the yurt at the retreat centre – I went to kirtan in it, went to a live flute meditation, did yoga in it and one lovely sunny afternoon, (accidentally) took a nap in the sunshine lying in the grass outside it, as music was being played within. I very much hope there are more yurts in my future – this one was very special.

It was kind of ridiculously idyllic….the chef looked like George Harrison, the kirtan music was sublime, I slept one night in a tent lined with sparkling saris with my head bathed by the moon, I meditated under a giant pine tree in the pitch dark of nearly midnight, ….and there was heaps of free time in the schedule so that everyone dropped the stresses of their lives off their shoulders and by the second day, everyone was moving slower, smiling more and looking very peaceful.

At one point, I’d been sitting beside the river having a heart-to-heart conversation with my friend Nat who owns the yoga studio I teach at, and as we walked (ssslllloooooowwwwwllllyyyyy) back through the forest to the centre, we came upon a group of people playing music together (this song) … dancing barefoot in the sun, children were blowing bubbles, it was ludicrously lovely. I actually had a slightly hysterical giggle/crying fit in response to the sweetness of the scene… it was like a little taste of how life could be if people just relaxed more, played together more and got along together. You know….utopian dreams made (briefly) manifest.

Anyway, have I made you ill with my gushing yet…? Ha ha! Here’s a few pictures…

The main part of the retreat centre…


(Below) The saris I spent a night gazing up at …


Lovely kirtan teacher, Chakradhyan of Chant Shack Melbourne. 


Amazing percussion teacher – Douglas Brush: 


Nat beside the river with the retreat centre pup…


Little stone cairn beside the river…


(Above) Brave people having their first go at leading kirtan…

(Below) The magical yurt, complete with babbling brook….part of me will be forever lying the the warm grass, napping in the sunshine outside this yurt.


Another garden visit: Paekakariki School Garden

Another beautiful permaculture garden I visited recently, is the Paekakariki School garden. Lots of schools have gardens these days, but they are usually hotch-potch patches of vegetables gone to seed and a few calendula…not the Paekakariki School garden. It’s clearly lovingly and frequently tended, with huge compost and mulch piles, a working greenhouse and an effusion of vegetables, herbs and flowers. There is enough sowing and planting activity happening in this beautiful collective garden, that before Christmas they had a huge plant sale of plants they had grown in the greenhouse.

Below – greenhouse to the left, borage growing freely everywhere, herb and vege beds…somewhat inexplicably, old fridges used for storing tools to the right…


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I love how there are so many flowers – foxgloves, violas, chamomile, borage – growing around the vegetables. So pretty, and so good for the bees!

Below – chamomile….parsley seed heads. (Oh how I love a spindly seed head!)

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Below – Fine looking garlic crop! Strawberries growing in tyres…


(Below) – This is intriguing – looks like they are constructing a greenhouse from an old jungle-gym frame and recycled plastic bottles threaded onto bamboo canes. Good upcycling, but looks very labour intenstive…


(Below) One perfect viola – so so pretty… What an inspiring community garden! I didn’t want to leave!


summer colours

We’re having days (weeks!) of consistent warm weather this summer – a change from the last couple of summers. I’m really feeling the summer vibes this year!

Raspberries and strawberries picked at a place we house-sat:


I bought a sheet of googly-eyes made from icing, certain they would make for some hilarious baking. I was right. The kids went wild with the icing and silly shapes…


This is what we got up to on Christmas Day (that’s my family in the water) – is there anything more Southern hemisphere than a Christmas Day river swim?


Beach lupins ablaze…



To unfurl is to trust that the light and rain will both come as needed to aid your full blooming.

To leap is to trust there will be a safe landing…or at least one that doesn’t kill you.

To reach is trust that there will be something to grasp – a branch, …a tool, …a hand.


a and s’s beautiful permaculture garden

One of my favourite things to do is to visit other people’s vegetable gardens and have a good nose around…I always learn so much and get inspired to go home and get into my own.

(See photographs from an organic garden tour I did in 2013 here.)

Here are some photographs from a beautiful, well-established permaculture garden I visited in late spring last year. (It belongs to friends of a friend. They were kind enough to let me photograph the garden but wanted to be otherwise anonymous. I think it doesn’t give too much away to say the garden is in the lower North Island.)

Here is their garden photographed from just beyond their porch, you can see this from the house:


I loved the way they had their main crops (potatoes, corn) in large clear beds, their salad crops growing more ‘wildly’ in the shadey edges, and they had planted an orchard at the foot of the garden which doubles as the chicken run…the chickens keep the grass from around the base of the trees (most fruiting trees don’t like grass growing around their bases), and the chickens fertilize the trees with their poo…meanwhile, the trees offer shade to the chooks, and food, too. (Unfortunately for my chickens, the two huge trees in their run are feijoa trees, and it seems chooks don’t like feijoas, so no happy harvest for my lot!)



Everywhere I turned there were different crops – here you can see salad vegetables, calendula, dark leafy greens and garlic…


Near the house was an absolutely beautiful peach tree sorrounded by fennel, with flawless fruit dripping off it. I sat under it for a while – it sure was a special tree – and took a bazillion photographs…but I’ll just share a couple with you here as you may not find photographs of peaches so mesmerising as I do.



Beautiful hand-woven baskets and seedling pots made from newspaper…



I noticed they had a ground cover of red clover, too. Red Clover is a wonder-herb – read all about it here.  It’s also just pretty, as ground covers go, don’t you think?


I have another vegetable garden visit to share with you, soon. I hope you enjoyed this one!