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.


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!

Setting the year ablaze

For the last few years, I’ve chosen a word for the year – something to mull over, to set intention, to facilitate ongoing inner growth…

For a few years there, the word was ‘No’, as in learning to say no, to be assertive, to DISCERN what was and wasn’t important to me…

Last year’s word was SHAMELESS, read about it HERE and HERE. See my SHAMELESS Pinterest board HERE. It was somewhat successful, although I did slide down into several shame spirals over various things – I think shame is in my DNA, maybe it is for all women, given the culture we live in.

Since the solstice, I have been mulling over a word for this year…all words of a gentle, nurturing nature were not doing it for me…I wanted something with an edge, with big metaphoric possibilities, with high-energy. Energy is what I hope for for this year. I’ve had a few ‘damp’ years, fallow years, resting years, compost years – and I accept them as part of a life passage, part of an organic process.

‘There are years that ask questions and years that answer them.’

-Zora Neale Hurston

Some credit to this year’s word must go to my friend EMMA – as part of my Christmas present she gave me a box of fancy matches which have the saying ‘The inner fire is the most important thing’ on the box, as I unwrapped it she said: ‘Well, you are a pyromaniac.’

It’s true. I love a good bonfire and often have a big burn in the backyard. I love candles, and incense. I use matches rather than a lighter because I get a small thrill from striking a match.

In yoga-teaching, we talk about ‘igniting the inner-fire’ – meaning both physically, as the core warms up, an internal heaters starts to fire, deepening the breath and warming the body…and metaphorically – the inner-fire being our drive, energy, prana, shakti!

So my word for the year is FIRE.

See my Fire Pinterest board HERE.

Like The Pixies I’m DIGGING FOR FIRE.  Hoping that this is a year that answers questions, and hoping to light a match to all my desires… watch them turn into the biggest bonfire on the most beautiful beach under the fullest moon.


Backyard hobo bonfire in a rubbish tin.


Plant fire – calendula in my vege garden…


Winter solstice celebration from some years back…


Fire sky, Queenstown 


Growing my fire and eating my fire… 



Backyard fire at a friend’s place…

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn…”

-Jack Kerouac


Summer solstice brings intentions for the coming year…

On Sunday, I celebrated the Summer solstice at a dear friend’s house in the country with about twenty other people. We shared a feast and then lit a big bonfire, drummed and danced, burned things in the fire we wanted to let go of, and set intentions for the year ahead…

This week I am feeling very much like the new year has begun. I have taken some steps towards launching my new business – Helen Lehndorf: Mindfulness & Creativity (I’m on facebook HERE) …

This year I am employing myself to teach yoga, meditiation, creative writing classes, day retreats and more! I have great trepidation about the financial side of things, but otherwise am feeling happy, excited and very much like I am doing the right thing.

& I’ve already done a few things this week towards my goals for the year:

Here they are…


(I’ve gotten into making vegetable juices this year – with some trial and error. I’ll write a post with some juicing tips soon.)

I’ve had some ongoing health issues (I won’t bore/overshare about them but they can be summed up in two words: ‘women’s troubles’) which I am determined to sort out this year. I also want to feel better generally. I am so clean-living (relatively) I feel like I should have more energy and vitality than I do. This week I have been to an osteopath for a crunchy neck that was giving me headaches, and a herbalist. The herbalist said the majority of her clients are ‘exhausted mothers who want more energy’. YUP! This is going to be the year of prioritising my health!


I love to grow vegetables (this is a photograph which accompanied a personal essay about my vegetable garden published in the Dominion-Post a few years back – the cabbage-boob pose still cracks me up) but despite years of it, I still have a lot to learn….so over the next two years I am doing a Permaculture course through RECAP. The course covers soil health, water systems, animals…all kinds of things I know little about. I’m excited to learn, and to improve my garden.


I bought my bike in 2007 with proceeds from a stall at a craft fair. I remember I told everyone who bought something from me that day that their money was going towards a bicycle, and how excited I was to buy it (especially choosing the bell and the basket to go on the front) … I used to cycle around our old neighbourhood all the time….then…we moved to our new house, so close to the centre of town it’s a ten minute stroll to the square and for whatever reason, I got out of the habit of cycling and subsequently lost my road confidence a bit. So this year is going to be the year I get back on my bike! I have lots of great cycling role models in Palmerston North – women who are much older than me who get around on their bikes, some towing their groceries on bike-trailers…one friend tows her dog around on a little platform!

I think they are all fairly achieveable goals. WISH ME LUCK!

Do you have any plans/hopes/dreams for the coming year?

before the solstice, the longest night…

Sunday was winter solstice, Saturday the longest night. From here on in the days shorten, although we still have a lot of cold weather ahead!

My friend Emma has posted about midwinter today HERE

We were supposed to go to a big solstice potluck on Saturday, but we’d had a busy overscheduled week (and another this week) and I couldn’t quite gain velocity to get out the door, so instead we stayed in and had soup and red wine and family movie night. It was just what we all needed, I think. Sometimes staying in can feel like such a treat!


We woke up to an unseasonably bright golden day on solstice day, and went out into the country (just like Emma) for some rural rambles. One thing I love about living where I live, is that although I dwell in the centre of the city, I can be in the country in ten or so minutes. It’s the best of both worlds for a countryside lover.


I hope your winter solstice was cosy (or your summer solstice bright and fun if you are reading on the other side of the world) … all around my garden there are tiny green bumps of bulb-heads poking through – before we know it, spring will be here again.


Here’s to all the reflectiveness which comes with the longest night.

Autumnal rambles around the Wairarapa

For the past four years, I’ve had an annual visit to my friend Emma’s in Featherston for a weekend of fun, food, junk-shopping and Nana-ish great times…we did it earlier than usual this year and it was entirely great.

We stopped in at cafes (Cuckoo, The French Bakery and Trocadero), many lovely shops, one pub (Cool Change, Martinborough), Emma took me to see a local-knowledge icon -The spooky abandoned house on the hill- which I didn’t get a photo of because there was a gang of tourists taking photographs of it and I didn’t want to join the tourist throng, even though I totally WAS one!

We also went to see the Wes Anderson film ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ which I experienced as PERFECT. Beautifully styled, superbly acted, and funny funny funny. I loved it! It’s definitely a film that cries out to be viewed on the big screen, and now I want to see it again, and soon.  The cinema in Masterton is wonderful,  a real step into the past. I thought Emma’s heart skirt went quite well with the cinema carpet…



1960s handbags on the wall at Cool Change:


I hovered for far too long around this suitcase of soulful old teddies in a junk shop, but given I’ve just sold off my vintage-toy collection on trademe….I tore myself away lest I ‘accidentally’ start a new one. I do love old toys, though, they are so characterful!


I had fun times spotting old fonts and signs:



I love the name of this pipe band ‘Fern and Thistle’ – I’m guessing the fern = New Zealand and the thistle = Scotland. I said to Emma, ‘Do you reckon The Fern and Thistle Piping Band is still going?’ and she said ‘Doubt it’ but she was wrong….a quick internet search revealed that it is! It’s ‘the Wairarapa’s only pipe band, established in 1958’ and not only is it still going…it has a facebook page! So there you go. I wonder if this sign was painted in 1958? The font of ‘secretary’ looks to be a 50s/60s font. (Font-nerd IN THE HOUSE.)

Are you old enough to remember four-digit phone numbers? I am!


There’s always pretty corners at Emma’s house. She got a big scratch on her hand picking this lichen-covered lemon-bough for the room I was sleeping in – now that’s friendship!


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I read many of the great magazines Emma bought home from her trip to Japan. Check out this bonnet shaped like a beef steak, and the perfection of the granny-chic picture below…

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You can read Emma’s take on the weekend HERE.

Last time I cam home from Emma’s I went down with pneumonia. This time the worst that happened was a bit of indigestion from eating too much delicious food. I had a grand old time and now feel very relaxed and inspired, Hoorah!


top pops to the shop of the op

Op-shopping. I have the habit deep! It’s a hobby that clothes my family, furnishes and decorates my home, fills up my gift-suitcase (I stow interesting items in a suitcase so I always have something on hand when gifts are needed…) and combines simple/thrifty living with re- and upcycling plus the joy of a treasure hunt.

I often call into an op-shop after dropping M at school, or before picking him up. Here are some things I found in April/May. (Excuse the fuzzy photographs. I’m on instagram courtesy of a very old iPod touch that used to belong to my son  (I don’t have a smartphone) and the photo quality on it is not great.) These photographs only represent about a third of what I’ve found recently, but not everything is photo-worthy (books, clothes that are useful but not exciting, etc)

Gorgeous vintage frock. Way too small for me, alas, so I bought it for a friend who loves things folky…




GIANT patchwork bag with wooden handles, which for some reason really reminds me of the Little House on the Prairie books… mayopshop_2

Hilarious 70s notepad of love letter writing paper – each page features a vaseline-lens picture of a different couple with schmaltzy love-messages…


The sweetest tiny tea-set ever…


A great Nana-painting – an original! I love flowers on black backgrounds…


& the best 1980s wool jersey! Warm, comfortable and ridiculous in the best way…