Happy new year

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

Ev­ery now and then, things get me down. There’s so much work to do, the work that I get paid for, and then the other work I’ve cho­sen to be re­spon­si­ble for by liv­ing on a block.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last year, it’s how bloody lucky I am. To be born into this coun­try where you can grow just about any­thing, from the most beau­ti­ful ap­ples to the won­der of pe­onies to the smelli­est of ugly fungi – have a sniff of what it’s like to grow some­thing with an aroma of sex and socks on page 12.

In the pic­ture at left, I’m sit­ting on the front step of my usual place of work. Not the fancy of­fice, 70km and a heart-stop­ping, frus­trat­ing 60-120 minute drive away. This work­place is an eight sec­ond round trip, from bed to kitchen to desk.

My work col­leagues sleep at my feet. Their pay rate is rub­bish – $0 an hour – but their em­ploy­ment con­di­tions are out­stand­ing: slum­ber is manda­tory, all food, board and bones pro­vided. Their only task is to make me smile, some­thing they typ­i­cally ac­com­plish by look­ing at me as if I’m the most beloved thing they’ve ever seen. It’s very true that dogs have own­ers and cats have staff; Jack (17), Holly (6), Si­mon and Olivia (both 5) definitely don’t have the same def­er­ence.

By the time you read this, the ca­nines will tem­po­rar­ily out-num­ber the fe­lines. The dog own­ers in my fam­ily have quickly worked out that I have the equiv­a­lent of a doggy day care fa­cil­ity and their ba­bies will be lav­ished with at­ten­tion, so Tito is booked in and I sus­pect Jake and Lu­cah may turn up shortly.

I re­mem­ber read­ing a story about a man who had eight chil­dren. His friend asked him, how do you di­vide the love be­tween eight chil­dren? The man smiled and said “You don’t di­vide, you mul­ti­ply,” and he’s so right. The more you share your life, the more love you re­ceive.

I hope you have a lovely sum­mer. Thank you for be­ing with us.


We love your mag­a­zine, even though we live in the mid­dle of the city.

Quite a while ago I think some­one wrote into your mag­a­zine ask­ing if any­one knew how to make jam with­out added sugar; I think we have got one good an­swer to that ques­tion.

I have al­ways loved jam, the more the bet­ter on toast etc, and have quite a few plum trees which have an abun­dance of plums that make great jam.

So I was a bit dis­mayed when my doc­tor said I should cut down on my sugar in­take. One day my wife was cook­ing rhubarb as she usu­ally does, with dates in it. It clicked with me that if tart rhubarb can be made sweet with dates why not try it with other fruit to make jam?

I have found it works great. I re­alise dates must have a lot of sugar in them but surely they are rel­a­tively healthy: just cut up some dried dates with your cut-up fruit and cook. I have not made large quan­ti­ties yet, only two to three cups of fruit at a time. I cook it for 10 min­utes or so in a pot on the stove or in the mi­crowave. I some­times mash the jam with a potato masher to make a lit­tle finer mix once the jam is cooked.

If the fruit has lots of liq­uid, I mix in a quar­ter of a tea­spoon of corn­flour per cup of fruit be­fore cook­ing to thicken it. I have made tamar­illo, plum, fig, black­berry, and even mar­malade/or­ange jam (with­out us­ing skin on the or­anges) this way.

I know jam made this way will not keep as long as does ‘nor­mal’ jam. It seems to keep well in the fridge, and per­haps a lit­tle lemon in it may make it keep even longer. I imag­ine sealed in jars it would last as long as any­thing else.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn the art of weav­ing bas­kets or learn more com­plex tech­niques, this is a once-a-year event fea­tur­ing some of New Zealand’s best teach­ers of hands-on cre­ativ­ity. This year there is also a spe­cial guest, in­spi­ra­tional US weaver and artist Jackie Abrams, spon­sored by Cre­ative New Zealand.

Each of the six work­shops fea­tures dif­fer­ent tech­niques, the use of nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, such as wil­low, flax, cab­bage tree leaves, and wa­ter­colour pa­per, and in­or­ganic ma­te­ri­als such as wire, straws, plas­tic, plus what­ever you want to bring to weave. HATS: Make gor­geous flax sun­hats with vi­sors with Mau­reen Harte and Bron­wynn Bil­lens.

WIL­LOW: Learn to weave tra­di­tional and free-form wil­low bas­kets with ac­com­plished bas­ketweaver Peter Greer.

IN­OR­GANIC: Dis­cover the art of weav­ing with in­or­ganic ma­te­ri­als like wire, plas­tic and al­most any­thing else with Anita Peters.

TWIN­ING: Learn twin­ing and plait­ing large flax bas­kets with Sarah Horni­brooke.

PAPERWEAVING: Cre­ate a stun­ning ‘cat­head’ bas­ket out of painted wa­ter­colour pa­per with US tu­tor Jackie Abrams.

STITCH­ING: Learn an­cient craft skills of coil­ing and stitch­ing nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing cab­bage tree leaves, corn leaves, pine nee­dles and more with Deb Price.

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