Books Read 2020

Friday, 31 January 2020

Aerial Topdressing




Aerial topdressing is the use of fixed-wing aircraft to spread fertilizer onto farmland.  It first became commercially viable in New Zealand during the 1950s, and was especially useful on hill-country farms (where using a spreader-truck was not safe) although many others used it as well.





Topdressing planes were commonplace in my childhood years.  I can remember my father having fertilizer, usually superphosphate, spread regularly over our home farm.  He would go up in the plane with the pilot to point out were the farm boundaries were and which paddocks he wanted fertilized, and then leave him to it.




Today GPS is used for more accurate placement of the fertilizer, meaning the majority of the product will land where it is required and other areas can be avoided, such as buffer zones for waterways. 


The last time I watched a topdressing plane in action was in 2007, near Te Awamutu in the Waikato.  That is when these photos were taken.


Although our temperature today is reaching the late 20s there is quite a strong wind blowing, which makes things feel a little cooler.

I did a double class at the pools again this morning – aquacise and then aquazumba.  We had a different tutor than normal and she was much slower – easier to do, I thought, but by the end I was feeling quite cold so obviously a faster pace is better.

Kakepuku Mountain, where the topdressing took place

And so the first month of 2020 passes by.  I guess it will be Christmas again before we know it!

Margaret.


LINKED TO Skywatch Friday

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Some Flowers And A Thrush

On my visit to Hamilton Gardens the other day I photographed some of the flowers that I saw blooming there.

There were few birds in evidence (many hide at this time of year as they go through their annual moult), but there were some thrushes around.

The thrushes were quite cheeky, coming in close to me and flipping through the undergrowth in their search for food, but whenever I tried to photograph one it would hide behind a plant or else fly away.  How come they know what a camera is?

I have noticed this tendency to be shy before a camera in other animals as well, notably sheep, cows and chickens.  Sheep especially will immediately turn their back ends towards you, which does not make for an attractive photo!

Tiger Lily

A shy thrush

Hosta

Globe Artichoke

Hips of Rosa rugosa

A glorious display in the Indian Gardens

The weather today is still hot but there is a bit of breeze keeping things a little cooler, and we actually had a few spots of rain earlier (they dried virtually before they hit the ground, but it was still nice to see them).

Have a great day,
Margaret.


LINKED TO My Corner of the World

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Easier Said Than Done

A favourite walk near Flagstaff, Arizona


Today I would like to make an update on the plan I started (see here) to help me lose weight and thus reduce my high risk of having a cardiac-related event.

Things have not been simple.  It was much easier to decide on a course than to actually follow it.

The pressure I have been feeling has ended up very stressful and depressing, especially when my weight continues to go up and down like a yo-yo with seeming little connection to what I do.

I feel like I am battling more than food intake and exercise.  Other factors I’ve been facing is my lack of continuing motivation, my habit of overeating when I feel stressed, and a slow metabolism from the two times I dramatically lost a lot of weight because of severe illness. 

I think I am also a little scared.  What benefit do I currently gain from being overweight?  Would I be happy if my appearance changed?  Then I tell myself that absolutely my whole life and lifestyle has changed completely in the last two years so why not add a new appearance?  But this idea is quickly followed by a return of that deadly feeling of pressure to conform, to be slim and trim like I used to be in my twenties.

Some prolonged deep thinking on this subject has brought me to the conclusion that what I really want to focus on is becoming healthier, more than losing weight per se. 

I personally know both healthy and unhealthy obese people and healthy and unhealthy skinny people, so good health is not dependent on body size.  However, I do feel that if my health was good then my weight would automatically adjust to what my body feels is healthiest for it – which may not be the same size as that of a model!

So what can I do to promote good health in my life?  Whatever I do needs to be simple, sustainable, and enjoyable.  I just need a few guidelines to push me in the right direction.

I have joined WW (Weightwatchers) to help me make better food choices, especially in regards to quantity eaten.  I began on the Green Plan but that involved so much tracking (especially as most of what I eat is prepared from scratch) that I have switched to their Purple Plan.  This allows me to eat healthy food and only track the things that really are not good for me (such as sugary stuff and wrong fats).

Our local swimming pool runs classes for aquacise and aqua-zumba, and I have begun attending those twice a week.  Yesterday was the first day I have done both (the two classes are 15 minutes apart) and came home feeling energised and on top of the world even if I was a bit sore.  Today I can barely walk!  But I know it is mostly muscle pain and should pass as I get more used to the exercises.

Walking is something I would like to do more of.  Not so much as exercise, but more as a way of maintaining the ability to move and as a means of promoting better mental health.  Strolling through a pleasant natural environment, with the opportunity for an occasional stop to contemplate my surrounds, is what I would call an ideal activity for me as I grow older.

Another movement issue I need to look into is balance, especially with osteoarthritis making itself more and more felt.  I have suffered the odd stumbling episode and a few months ago succeeded in giving myself concussion when I slipped over outside.

A few years ago I participated in a pilot course that taught, among other things, how to maintain good balance and suppleness to hopefully avoid having hip or knee replacement surgery.  I need to find my instruction book and get started on these stretches again.

It feels a bit funny making public my personal thoughts and decisions, but it is Life that I am writing about.  Who knows, someone somewhere might be encouraged by what I write and not feel like they are alone in their struggles to live a better life. 

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope you enjoy your day.
Margaret.

Monday, 27 January 2020

My 100th Post!


Wow, I am really thrilled to have reached this mark.  I enjoy my blog immensely and feel I have made some wonderful blog-friends around the world.

I know a lot of (probably most!) bloggers are way past this mark, but as I only made my first blogging effort in October 2019 this is an achievement for me J


Mairangi Bay, on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour (2006)


Today is Auckland Anniversary Day, a public holiday for anyone living within the Auckland Province (almost all of the upper half of the North Island) to celebrate  … something?  I had to look it up!!

I thought the date may have referred to when Auckland City was first settled or Auckland Province was declared, but it actually commemorates the arrival of Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson in the Bay of Islands in 1840.  I guess that is sort of the start of our colonial settlement history.

Being a long weekend (today is a Monday) there are also a lot of traffic issues as people head off to the beach for a last summer break before school returns next week after the six week summer break.  

In Auckland itself, boats of all descriptions take to the water in Waitemata Harbour for the largest regatta to be held in New Zealand each year.


Swimming in the Waitemata Harbour (2006)

Son and I watched the finals of the World Rugby Sevens last night.  It was thrilling to see both the men’s and women’s New Zealand teams win this weekend, a double win in front of a home crowd.  Next weekend the teams will all be meeting up in Sydney to play.

Yesterday must have been one of our hottest days.  Although our official temperature reached 26 degrees Celsius, this is taken at the airport several kilometres away from the city itself and sitting in open country.  Readings in Hamilton City reached 32 degrees, but at one stage in the sports arena it topped 47.4 degrees.

This mural is on the Hamilton City Council's building

 We had a little cloud around this morning, but that has now all gone.  The temperature is also climbing but it doesn’t feel like it will get as hot as yesterday, thank goodness.

I have taken advantage of the summer weather and washed some blankets.  They should dry quickly but I could have chosen my day better as there is not much wind, and so I may need a good shaking session to create some fluffiness.

Enjoy your day,
Margaret.


LINKED TO Monday Mural



Sunday, 26 January 2020

World Rugby Sevens


Our fair city of Hamilton has been the host for the World Rugby Sevens Series this weekend, and son and I have been watching a lot of the games on Sky Sport Live.




It was hot yesterday but much hotter today, with blue cloudless skies, and I feel a bit sorry for the guys running around on the field.

It is much more comfortable to sit inside beside a fan and watch the games on TV.  The only problem is the games come so close together there isn’t time for comfort stops!




We’ve been watching some of the tennis the last few days as well (at Auckland, and now in Melbourne), although son is more keen on it than I am.

I made a quick visit to the supermarket this morning before it got hot, and bought some deli pickled pork to try out.  It was a little fatty and the rind had to be cut off, but it made a tasty sandwich for lunch.

I also managed to get the washing dry and back in off the clothesline before it got too hot.  No folding done yet, though - that can wait until tomorrow morning.  My modus operandi at this time of year is to do as much as possible in the morning and then go slow the rest of the day.

Hopefully everyone is having a great weekend,
Margaret.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

The Year of the Rat


Today is Chinese New Year, the end of the Year of the Pig and the start of the Year of the Rat.




The above photo was taken from a book I own, The Practical Encyclopedia of Feng Shui by Gill Hale.  Our world, physical and spiritual, is composed of energy and feng shui deals with how energy flows in and through our lives.  Consequently I find some of the ancient principles of feng shui resonate with me, although I am not an ardent follower by any means.

The book has this to say about the Year of the Rat:  “This is a lucky year, a good time to start a new venture.  The rewards will not come without hard work, but with careful planning they will arrive.”  Sounds good to me!




I have finished reading another book, this time Alice in Wonderland  and Alice Through the Looking Glass, both by Lewis Carroll.  This unabridged book has both stories, plus a few poems and other writings.  

I have not read the unabridged version of Alice before, but most of the tales were familiar and it was easy to read.  I struggled though with Through the Looking Glass, as it seemed to take the nonsense level up another level and then tie it in with a game of chess – and I am not a fan of chess!



It looks like we are in for a heat wave over the next week or two.  The farms around here are already browning off, some more than others, and some areas of the country are looking at being declared drought areas.

At home, we are being invaded by house flies, not being helped by having cattle in the field behind us.  However, I did enjoy watching this bumble bee visiting my snapdragons the other day.


I hope the Year of the Rat will be a pleasant and happy and successful one for you all,
Margaret.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Dairy Cows

When I was out driving yesterday I came across this herd of dairy cows.  The Waikato (the region the city of Hamilton is situated in) is one of the main dairying areas of New Zealand.


This herd had a high percentage of Jersey cows in it (the golden brown ones) - a lot of local cows are Friesian (black and white) or Friesian Cross breeds.

As a youngster I remember my father having both breeds in his herd.  The Jersey bulls were really obstreperous and we were never allowed into the paddock with them.


A mixed herd was considered the best of both worlds at that time - Jerseys for rich milk and Friesians for quantity.  I'm not sure what the priorities of today's farmers are.

Margaret.


Linked to Skywatch Friday


Thursday, 23 January 2020

Cemetery Visit


No apologies for photographing a cemetery.  It is 18 months since my darling husband died and I sought solace by visiting his grave.  It takes me around an hour to get there, as the cemetery we chose is a provincial one situated in the town where we first met. 


This rather rickety-looking seat was in the older part of the cemetery


My father, mother, a brother, and a grandmother are also buried here, so husband is in good company!


A view across the cemetery


The cemetery is not large, being so much more intimate than the big city one, and has a very peaceful atmosphere with several large trees and all kinds of resident birds.  It is actually a lovely place to just sit for a while and ponder on things.


This area is reserved for Returned Servicemen


Whenever I leave a cemetery I like to follow Maori protocol and wash my hands before leaving, throwing some of the water backwards over my shoulders. 

Washing the hands this way is to clear any connection that has inadvertently been made with the spiritual world, and also leaves the departed ones in their places so they do not follow you.

Sounds superstitious I know, but the act always leaves me feeling purified somehow.  It gives me peace instead of turmoil.

I love this majestic old oak tree

Margaret.



Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Japanese Garden of Contemplation


One of the more peaceful gardens in the complex known as Hamilton Gardens, is the Japanese Garden of Contemplation.




Rather than displaying itself all it once, this garden reveals itself in stages.  
An entrance path leads into a foyer-type area that then goes on to a Pavilion.




On the left of the pavilion is a dry-landscape zen garden, depicting the movement of water through the raking of the stones.




Inside the pavilion are seats where one can sit in contemplation of the beauty of water itself.
 Sunlight reflects the water up into the eaves, perfectly captured in a poem placed in this area:

Fluid echoes dance –
Ripples of sun and water
Hold dreams in the eaves
~ Vonnie Hughs




There are turtles living in this body of water, but they seldom show themselves.  I think the reflections often found here are beautiful.




Sometimes I like to sit and sketch, and here is an ink sketch I made recently while sitting in the pavilion.




I hope you enjoyed this little wander around the garden.



Cheers,
Margaret


Linked to My Corner Of The World

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

An Early Supermarket Visit


I was hoping to beat the heat this morning and so went to the supermarket rather early.  There was no need, as nearly all day we have had thick cloud cover and that has kept the temperatures much cooler than yesterday’s blistering heat.

It had still been a sticky night though, but keeping the fan going helped me sleep a bit better than the night before.  When the curtains were pulled back this morning, there was a visible layer of mist lying over the field behind us and a few wisps of fog twirling through the trees in the valley.

It seems that each time I visit a supermarket I go to a different one.  I have no loyalty, it seems, to any particular company or any particular location. 


New World supermarket at Rototuna, Hamilton


Today I went to New World at Rototuna and found some kitchen sponges that seem to be going out of stock at other stores, being replaced with microfiber cloths.

From what I understand, microfiber is as bad as plastic for the environment as when it begins to break down the small fibres find their way into our oceans with the same devastating effect as plastics.  But I will not be too condemnatory as I actually have no idea at all what kitchen sponges are made of, or what harm they may do to our fragile world.

No other shopping was needed today, so it was home to put away the groceries and then spend some time admiring the new garden wall that son has been building. 

Now I have my nose into another book.  I found a Georgette Heyer book, Black Sheep, in my bookcase that I haven’t read for several years.  I can still remember the gist of the story but the details are forgotten so I am quite enjoying it.

Margaret.

Monday, 20 January 2020

A Summer Poem


We have hot summer temperatures here today, expecting to hit 30C later this afternoon.  I just wilt in this heat and have been trying to find something to do inside.

So far I have begun reading two different books and discarded both of them.  One was plain boring, the other was too hard-going.  It is too hot for serious reading at the moment.

Browsing through some of my old notebooks I came across some poems I had written.  The following one is about Summer, so I thought that was appropriate for today.

Mt Maunganui ocean beach (2010)

SUMMER

Skies are blue, washed pale with heat,
Fluffy clouds form and just as quickly flee.
Cows swish tails to chase away flies,
And cicadas chirp loudly from their tree. 

Next door’s children squeal with delight,
Squirting each other with the hose.
Gardens swelter beneath the sun,
As one by one we shed our clothes.

By the sea the crowds gather;
Claiming to have fun on the hot sand.
Splashing in the cool ocean waves,
As summer spreads across the land.


* * * * * * * 


This photo was taken in Napier during 2009.  I think it is a great way to disguise the functionality of public toilet facilities!




Linked to Monday Mural

Sunday, 19 January 2020

A Few Books

First up, a memory of a lovely day in January 2009 when my husband and I visited Waimarama Beach in the Hawkes Bay.  The water was a little cool for us to enjoy a swim, but that did not seem to deter quite a few other people.

The concrete blocks in the photo are part of the effort to slow down rampant erosion on this coastline.



I have read three books this last week and enjoyed each of them.

The first was The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, a facsimile of a nature diary kept by Edith Holden in 1906.  It is full of watercolours of the different plants and wild life found through the different months and seasons, accompanied by extracts of poetry and short notes on daily activities.




The second book was The Edwardian Lady compiled by Ina Taylor.  It details the story of Edith Holden (authoress of the above book) and her family, the trials they faced and the lives they lived, with details about Edith's career as an artist and book illustrator.  




This morning I finished reading a third book, The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (authoress of the Anne of Green Gables series).   This is considered one of her few adult fiction stories and tells of an Old Maid who rebels against her family-imposed life of dreariness and eventually finds true happiness with the man she loves.

The book itself was another one of my mother’s, being awarded to her as a Sunday School prize in 1940.  I have read it several times now, and especially enjoy the descriptions of Canadian scenery “up-back” in the Muskoka region of Ontario.




The weather today is fairly calm and warm.  We are meant to reach 29C later this afternoon, so finding another book to read sounds like a good idea.  I am not very good outdoors in the heat, it just drains all my energy and my fair skin burns very quickly. 

It is a much better idea to rise early in the morning, do what needs to be done, and then relax inside in a cooler spot during the heat of the day.

Margaret.


Linked to Skywatch Friday

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Bungy Jumping


Last year I visited the birthplace of adventure tourism in New Zealand – the AJ Hackett Bungy Jump at Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown.  It was first opened at the end of 1988 and now attracts more than 500,000 people every year.

There is an excellent viewing platform where the not-so-brave (or should that read the not-so-foolish) can watch all the action take place.


The viewing platform


It takes a while to organize a person for a jump.  They have to be properly harnessed and appear to receive a pep talk along with instructions.  The time arrives to stand on the very edge of the platform and look down a long distance to the river far below.  A countdown and a gentle nudge and they are swinging through the air upside down, tied by their feet to a rope that allows them to bounce up and down upside down and sometimes dip their head into the water.


Looking down at the Kawarau River


I missed seeing the first person jump but I heard all the gasps from his bus load of friends and watched as the crew rescued him from the water.  He lay flat on his back in the boat, gazing up at his friends and waving weakly.  After being dropped off back at shore he then had to walk up the steep steps to where we all were, arriving to a great cheer from his buddies.

I was all set with my camera when the next person was ready to jump, but as he did so my heart jumped right into my mouth and I totally forgot to click the shutter!


Preparing to jump off the bridge


That was enough adventure for me.  I obviously don’t have that desire for thrills flowing through my system.  I returned to my car and continued on my drive from Queenstown to Alexandra.

Have a great day!
Margaret.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Flowers In My Salad


For many years now I have added flowers to my salads.  I love the look they give to the dish, and I am sure they also contribute different nutritional attributes as well.

My husband would always groan when he saw flowers in the kitchen, and then laugh at me and eat my creations.  He really was a wonderful husband, but flowers are almost tasteless in a salad anyway.

A lot of folk are afraid to use flowers in food, the same way they are afraid to use wild fungi, and I think this is good.  Without knowledge of what you are using it is possible to make yourself and others ill, or worse.  Feeding someone a foxglove flower, for instance, would more than likely result in their having heart issues which could be fatal. 

There are four flowers that I use the most:  borage, calendula, heartsease pansy, and nasturtium.

Borage (Borago officinalis) is an annual herb with hairy leaves and gorgeous blue flowers (although there is also a white variety).  To use the petals – hold the flower underneath using the thumb and forefinger, then, using the other hand, grasp the stamens and gently pull the flower apart.  What is left is a blue star of petals, ready to use in a salad or as a garnish on other dishes.


Borage


Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is often called Pot Marigold and was a common culinary plant in the Middle Ages.   It is a simple flower to use as the petals need only to be plucked or snipped individually off the centre of the flower.


Calendula


Heartsease pansy (Viola spp.) has a mild sweetish flavour and look quite exotic on food.  I use the whole flower (they are only tiny), trimming the stem away but leaving a tiny amount so that the flower remains whole.


Heartsease Pansy


Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) are rather peppery in flavour.  They make a nice garnish as a whole flower, but petals can also be used shredded finely with a sharp knife.


Nasturtium


I have used other flowers and petals at other times as well, such as rose, dandelion, red clover, rosemary, and pineapple sage.  They add a bit of fun to everyday food.

Have you tried eating flowers?
Margaret