The end of 2019 was a blur. They call it silly season here. Everyone makes the most of the nice weather. Every weekend is booked out. I find myself inviting friends over to what would be the most epic of Thanksgiving dinners. 25 pounds of turkey costs $120 here but it was so worth it to eat and to share our little traditions with a bundle of people who had seen it on TV but never actually participated in the traditions. And we did them all. We had problems with the turkey, started late, went around the room and said what we were thankful for. Then we over ate and went back for more. One living room was occupied by folks who were fast asleep while the rest of us huddled in the other living room chatting and drinking wine until late. Leftovers lasted for days and nothing went to waste.
Roll into a weekend camping trip from there. Then dart off to Te Papa’s Alice and Wonderland exhibit before escaping to birthday weekend retreat in the country side. Its almost too much to keep up with but it all fits together nicely. I finish my second baby blanket and its 1 meter long (3ft)
It was actually lucky that the weekend getaways were so removed because work life had its own heap of loose ends to close out before the break. New initiatives that I had been itching to participate on were springing into action before they’re ready. Is it a project? Yes, no, it depends. But definitely don’t wait to get going. It seems that every day has a different emotion attached to it: excitement, impatience and anxiety, Christmas spirit, accomplishment and insecurity all exchange places in the driver seat inside me. Luckily, I also manage to focus on what I can control and pass both my Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner exams with flying colors.
Should we do another fest for Christmas? Definitely. Christmas break ends on a high note with an escape to our local mushroom farm. Its a sensational context switch from certification exams, project deadlines and all my other urban responsibilities. Our flat family drives up the Kapiti coast to get our hands dirty and learn how this corporate reformed couple are fashioning a sustainable paradise on 3 hectares of land just south of Levin.
We get situated in the evening with a little tour and learn all finer details of how to grow mushrooms at scale. A combination of cultures, a clean room, wood and fiber pellets, and lime all come together in these plastic container homes. Add a little spritzen of water, a lot of time and fancy oyster mushrooms can be harvested for weeks on end.
On Saturday afternoon we are left to unwind and wander the property. Every corner seems to have a personality and/or a purpose. There is an orchard with plums, apples, figs, quince, pears all just shy of being ripe for picking. Another section circles you around two winding ponds that are completely topped off with oxygen producing ferns, instead of algae, and harbor a thriving underworld colony of frogs. Despite my best efforts they manage to evade all my camera shots. Surrounding the ponds and their corresponding mini-islands are a smattering of native and non-native classic bushes and trees. Behind all that, a eucalyptus grove and then a tract of pine trees. In the back end a remote cabin for guests is patrolled by two untouchable roving sheep.
Free range chickens bequeath us fresh warm eggs in the morning and hang out as accessories to our group chats on the porch in the afternoon. Its the kind of place that instantly revitalizes shelved aspirations to get a piece of land and just turn your lifestyle on its head to dedicate yourself to the creation and maintenance of a self-sustaining sustainable section of land.
The work to maintain it is both physically demanding and mentally calming. We spent a whole afternoon lugging fallen branches and tree trunks into a massive burn pile to clear the ground from the winter’s droppings. Watching eucalyptus branches burn is such a raw experience. It’s filled with oil so it literally pops into flames the moment it lands and crackles furiously until there is nothing left.
It is a somber and yet obnoxious reminder of the millions of acres that are burning in Australia at the moment. As we fashion paradise 1,500 miles of smoke from millions of plants, animals and biomass and diversity has evaporated and is now settling upon us. January was full of hazey days and dark orange sunsets. On one hand the human race appears to be unable to hold ourselves to account or halt our transgressions to prevent its recurrence.
On the other hand when it comes to what we can do as a micro-community, the answers are all online already. So we learn to make a hugel bed which starts with a base of tree trunks and stumps surrounded by branches filled in with compost, from the mushroom feedbags, and topped off with a thin layer of rich soil to nourish the seedlings. In addition to growing into a food garden, it also creates soil in what would otherwise be a nutrient poor soilscape.
By nightfall even though we are knackered we’re proud of all our accomplishments and nothing can quell our enthusiasm for good company, pineapple burgers, fresh caught fish and mushroom risottos. The chats go on until my eyes close mid conversation. It was only a long weekend, but it left us with such great memories and learnings. It was a much needed escape from the worlds’ chaos. Outside of paradise corner, things seem to be getting pretty hectic.
Puerto Rico is rocked by a gaggle of earthquakes. Volcanoes in disparate corners of the world erupt on unsuspecting victims. Trump’s impeachment flickers out in the Senate with strict party line votes to smother a core tenet of the country’s legislative check and balance. Even though personally, things seem to be lining up ideally with my aspirations there seems to be an negative mustiness in the air.