Monthly Archives: February 2013

Season of abundance – pear picking


Today is the last day of summer – officially.  While we are enjoying a very long and extremely hot summer here in NZ, drought is evident at every turn.

Evenings however are closing in, nights are cooling off and although we burn and roast in the sun during the day it is  lovely, albeit tinged with sadness, that an extra layer is  needed at night.

Of course Autumn brings the abundance of harvest!



We planted these apple trees only three years ago and this year they have tons of apples!  This seems like the best sort of magic to me, pure alchemy.  I think as we planted them and have nurtured them (hugs, chats, Reiki…)it seems even more special to have such gorgeous fruit on them.

Next to them we have an old, old pear tree that has continuously produced a bountiful harvest each year.



Charlie is the number one picker as he is  still, just small enough to climb up and pick where the rest of us cannot reach.


He is a hard worker and happily clambers up the tree, scratching and scraping himself while filling a bag!




Charlie manages to get right up the tree even though it isn’t a huge one.



Even after we have picked three large boxes there is still heaps left to pick. That is tomorrow’s job and the next days….

I just love the abundance of Autumn – a true reminder of the miraculous way the natural world works. And how there is enough for us all, if we only manage the natural resources that have  so generously been entrusted into our care.






Unschooling Retreat coming up….


Last year we ran a wonderful retreat which we labelled
“NZ’s first Unschooling Retreat.”

It was so great we didn’t want it to end.
And I vowed I wouldn’t run one again…


Yet here we are less than a week away from NZ’s 2nd Unschooling Retreat!  Check it out here….

We have a different venue, near a beach this time, not a river.
It was such a valuable time together last year.  Many new families from all over the place came along and are coming back this year too.  There were many families with  under 5 year olds already investigating options for their child/ren.

We learned that being unschoolers many people did not want to be talked at by “experts”.  That the event was more of an un-conference.  A chance for families to gather informally. There was much sharing of information, ideas, many questions asked and answered, stories shared.

We found the  things that worked best were fun, whole family activities and then a talking circle (one men’s and one women’s).

This year we are having a pancake breakfast, market place, fancy dress dinner, games, the two circles, a concert, board games evening, flag making, juggling, paddle boards/kite surfers, paint ball target shooting gallery.



Here I am painting a sign to put out on the road by the camp.

So, with just 5 days to go, we have sprung int action and are getting prepared!

Hannah has been wroking for many weeks taking the registrations, sorting out payments, queries, emails.  She is so excited, super organised and has many plans about setting things up.  After last year’s event I joked that we could go into business organising events (us two!)  No joke….


She has printed out spreadsheets of who is coming, which days etc.  Such an efficient secretary!  Thanks Hannah.



Charlie is sorting out and wrapping up toys for his market stall which will be raffles and lucky dips.



I am painting signs, writing lists, thinking about food (occupational hazard I know), adding to the blog as I think of things….

I know, again, it will be a wonderful experience.  Living together with other natural learners for a few days (5) is so refreshing and inspiring.

So watch this space for past retreat photos….

And if you are interested , there is plenty of camping space  and still time to register.  🙂


Summit climb


I have returned from summiting the formidable Mount Taranaki!

Quite a feat as I did not really train.   I feel proud I made it, although I am hobbling about like a women 3 times my age  who has severe arthritis and  will be for a few more days no doubt…

For  a friends 50th birthday she decided to return to her birthplace and climb the mountain. We did have a discussion 2000 metres up perched on the scree about her being born here, (right here ?? On the scree?)

In the end there were 14 of us walkers who set out on the Friday night to stay at a gorgeous (electricity, carpets, full kitchen) private lodge half way up the mountain.  This was steep and took just over an hour.


On the road up Taranaki had a scarf of cloud about her shoulders.


Dusk made for a cool walk up to Tahurangi Lodge, where the summit was ever present before us…


I love this giant shadow of the classic volcano shaped peak lying across the plains below.

Tahurangi Lodge is at 15oo m above sea level, the summit is 2518m.

Saturday morning we rose at 6am to watch the sunrise and prepared to set off.  Many people were already well on their way.   A local told us there can be 300-400 people a day summiting on a sunny weekend.


Mount Ruapehu on the left looked tiny from where we were, as the sun rose across a bed of cloud that stayed there all day, while we climbed in hot sunshine.

The walk has very distinct terrain.  There are 440 steps, then scree, then volcanic rocks to clamber up.


Our party setting out in the first rays of sunshine….


The steps!


The scree – with a few patches of snow still hanging on.  It wasn’t all fine, loose and easy to slide down, there were rocks to watch out for which made the descent a bit slower.


The best bit of equipment for the steep rock clambering was gloves, to protect your hands.
(And probably leg muscles used to such exertion would have been useful too…)


Birthday girl Alice and I  in the  snow filled crater.

Champagne was served by friends on the true summit, a steep 15 min climb to the right of this.


Looking down the crater .

It is pretty amazing to be able to climb a volcano, even an extinct one.  It adds a certain dash of danger to think of the power that exsists beneath your feet that appeals to the risk-taker in me.


The gradient was steep,the views between clouds spectacular and the company fantastic!

Tramping is such a bonding sort of activity.  You set off with a group of mostly strangers and after just 24 hours they feel like your best buddies in the world. Also you know you are in the company of like minded people who love to seize the day, try new things, take risks and explore.  That is such a blessing which inspires me.

It was so great to chat (puff) to new people as I shared different parts of the track with them.  And so neat to see another part of a Alice’s life, by meeting a range of her family and friends. Seeing her in a  role different to that in which I usually see  her.

We stayed at the historic Camphouse after our climb where we were joined by other friends and family.

Every time I am out and about like this I just feel so grateful for the freedom we have in New Zealand to get up and go to such beautiful places so easily.  They are accessible, free and safe.

I am also grateful for my family.  This weekend there were many other things happening for our family.  Having older children and a supportive partner  made it very easy for me to take off on my adventure while they all had their own   adventures and things to do.
So thank you.



I have often mentioned The Daily Groove…and for good reason! The little snippets of wisdom always offer an alternative view to mainstream parenting.  And always a lovely one at that. Here is what was on offer today…

The Trickle-Down Theory of Human Kindness

In peaceful “primitive” cultures, kindness is sustained from generation to generation by a kind of “trickle-down” effect. At its core is the commonly held value of serving and delighting younger people, especially babies.

 Adults appreciate the delight of adolescents,
.. who delight in the joy of prepubescents,
…. who enjoy entertaining younger children,
…… who love to carry babies and play with toddlers.

The elegance of this top-down, pleasure-oriented value system is that the youngest people receive the most (and give the least) at the developmental stage when they’re naturally narcissistic, while those who give more are more adept at deriving joy from giving.

In contrast…

 Adults in our culture often *fear* adolescents,
.. who call prepubescents “dweebs,”
…. who disparagingly call younger children “babies,”
…… who compete with real babies for attention.

When your children behave unkindly, remember that you can’t enforce authentic kindness. Instead, let it trickle down by *modeling* unconditional generosity. Using your creativity, find a way to serve and delight both “aggressor” and “victim” …and yourself, too!


I often try to perform random acts of kindness for my children.  I know this can be seen in our culture as the kids being lazy, or us doing too much for them which will mean they grow into useless, selfish adults .

I tend to work on the belief that children are people too, just extra special ones.  So if I know they are tired, unhappy, worried or just busy doing something I will often make them some food I know they love and take it to them.  Or offer to help them with something, or do a job for them. Or make myself available to chat, have a hug, read to them… Just as I would hope to be treated.

Our kids are all extremely capable with domestic tasks, when they need to be.  I ask them to help out, they have regular jobs to do.  My thinking is that they are part of the family too.

I also feel very appreciated by them when I do a kindness for them.  They really understand that I am being kind, not just being a slave.
(OK, at times I may point it out to them…).
Kindness is a value I would love my children to have.
Modelling this seems like the easiest and quickest way to help them experience it, know it and hopefully act with  it themselves.

I feel as though our children can be very kind.
They seem to have  empathy and can show compassion.

Like Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”



Beautiful bumper stickers created and given away by Lauren Fisher

Ollie’s latest passion


Ollie’s passions have been so easy and so interesting to follow.
From the Army at age 4yrs, which still endures, he has expanded and diverted, taken side roads and unexpected detours.
Survival, the outdoors, tramping, fires, knots, firearms, weaponry, first aid, Civil Defence, any surival skill imaginable and now… prepping!

There is a TV series called Doomsday Preppers that has him fascinated as he has found a whole online world of  “Preppers”.
This is still survival.

Just survival on a large scale, in the event of a large scale disaster – solar flare, economic collapse, environmental disaster, an EMP (electrical magnetic pulse), earthquake, flood, global warming, pandemic.  Believe me I have heard about them all and Ollie is getting prepared for the lot.

(Being a Scout he really does live the motto of  “Be Prepared”)

So now he spends every spare cent on food.  Tinned food, rice, toilet paper.  His room is turning into a mini mart.  He tells me incredible stories of extreme preppers who manage to store (hide) their stashes in he most unimaginable places.


Somehow he has managed to get me to buy several items a week with our shopping, which make their way on to my list.  As he points out it is fair enough as he is really prepping for our whole family.


Rice is stored in plastic bottles and dated

He is already requesting supermarket vouchers for next Christmas!

He may be mad, but whatever he does he does with a passion, well researched, well thought out and well executed.

IMG_4483Chocolate bars, pasta, peanut butter (one of the best survival foods)

Luckily for him there is a whole online world of preppers (even raps made up).  He can hob nob with fellow preppers, then come and patiently explain to us why we need Avain flu masks and lots of them.

Many of these online doomsday preppers, being Amercian, have guns.  This has opened up some interesting discussion about firearms in general and about attitiudes of people in an emergency.  There seems to be an unhealthy competitiveness about stored supplies that goes against the idea that we should help our fellow human.  Interesting for Ollie to listen to these ideas and then talk to me (we are all one, love is  all there is, do unto others etc….)
Good questions to be grappling with at any age me thinks!

So while I continue to de-clutter and dream about our famiy living out  of a small back pack each, Ollie is planning to feed us all for 6 months of disaster induced isolation.  I totally support him and learn so much about his passions while he shares what he is doing.
It is an amazing file of knowledge he has stored away and I know he will be the best person to be around in the case of a disaster.

I just wonder though, what will come first….our world trip or  doomsday??


Ollie in one of his dust masks – good for after an earthquake.

RIP Cinnamon


We had a death in the family last week.
One of Hannah’s guinea pigs.

Nearly 6 years ago we got three little sisters as pets.  Very quickly they became Hannah’s and she has been the most conscientious pet owner there ever was.

Never have I had to ask her if she has fed/moved/cleaned  them. Whenever we went away, she would organise their care elsewhere.

A couple of years ago Matilda passed away, from a bad dose of the ‘flu.
Now Cinnamon has joined her sister, buried in our garden.
This just leaves Petal.
Hannah is paying her a lot of attention, brings her inside, cuddles her lots.
The whole pet experience has been fantastic for Hannah. And so wonderful to watch as a parent.




                                                 Hannah and Petal today

The “guinea girls” joining our family also symbolises the start of our homeschooling journey as we got them when we first started – six years ago.

They were the first big thing we did.
I used to worry so much as some days it seemed all we did was play with the baby guinea pigs!  Nothing else!  Nothing worthwhile!
My,  I have learnt so much since then….

The other thing I realise is that Charlie is the age that Hannah was then –  9 years old.  Charlie is very keen to have a pet and I have been reminding my self that he still has plenty of his childhood left to enjoy.  Plenty of time left to do many “childish” things.
And plenty of childhood left be a responsible pet owner.
With two kids well into adolescence I need to make an effort to ensure Charlie does not get ripped off,  having to grow up too soon because he is the youngest.

He is very keen to get a dog, or a cat.  And I know how fantastic he will be caring for an animal.

I love the flow of  our life, the passions of the kids and my role in supporting them to make them happen.  
Who ever knows what is around the corner…?