It’s the first day of the first full week of 2021 and I’m not sure whether to step lightly into this new year, or whether to just jump in feet first. Yesterday I wrote up my list of goals and aspirations for the year, but I’m aware that it’s the thinking, the mindset that accompanies one’s actions, that can work for you or against you as you step out towards meeting your goals and wishes. So, as well as the goals and objectives themselves, I have added to my list a general note: “Don’t overthink it, just do it.” And another one: “It might fail, but that’s the worst that can happen.” And then there’s “Best foot forward” as my father would say. As I write, I realise that I am feeling a little rusty, probably because it has been almost seven weeks since my last blog, and in fact it feels even longer. It was way back in November 2020, after all! Way back to that strange year that for most was a bewildering and scary time, one where we had to dig deep, and be brave and patient and compassionate individuals, and hope sincerely that that would be all the pandemic would ask of us. Many people had it far worse than those of us who are still in a position to sit here, (hopefully) in good health and write our posts and catch up with what our blogging friends have been up to over the past few weeks. At a time like this, you just never know what will be asked of you, or what might be taken from you. So to all my readers here, and to my friend Kate in the UK, who reminded me that the three go together: I sincerely wish you a Happy and Hopeful and Healthy 2021. Difficult days, but here we still all are! Here’s wishing you ALL the best of what the year has to offer, and remember that we are all works in progress, so let’s just all keep on creating♥
It’s possible that you are inadvertently downing more critters than you realise, especially if you buy organic leafy greens or grow your own at home and pick these to eat at your table. Insects have a way of attaching to organically grown produce, and I recently found a tiny, bright green mite, still alive and attached to a curled leaf of a head of lettuce after several days in the fridge. I returned it to a sheltered spot in my garden and wished it a happy life. Even after rinsing- that’s all you need to prepare organically grown greens- I’m aware that I may miss a few, and they may be going down the hatch- MY hatch!- along with a mouthful of salad. This is not much of a concern for me. There are worse things in life! It seems that currently there is a high level of interest in the viability of insect protein as we try and explore more creative ways of feeding the millions who occupy the planet. There is plenty on the web about the nutritious properties of insects and grubs, including other pertinent food awareness issues, such as why we all need to get over ‘ugly food’ and learn to eat weeds and certain foods that we, especially Westerners, typically consider unthinkable.
Near where I live there is a retailer that I used to frequent, where the doors remain closed after months, with no sign of change. While the harsh Lockdown regulations of a few months back have been eased more recently, this particular outlet has stuck to online trading only, and it seems they may keep it that way. From what I see, they are doing well and flourishing in the wave of online shopping that appears to be a big part of the new normal. Buying online is not something that has interested me much in the past: now and then I would order a book or two from overseas, or a DVD (although these days we use Netflix at home rather than DVDs), or something nice from Faithful to Nature in Cape Town. I have always enjoyed purchasing from FTN from time to time, because they sell the kind of products that I like and believe in from an ethical standpoint, and I love the way that they consider the environment and other pertinent issues as part of the normal run of their business. At a time where I sometimes feel that trying to get things done in an efficient and ethical way is like pulling teeth or jumping through hoops, it is pleasure to find a local, home grown company that just gets it right in so many ways. Continue reading
I’ve just finished reading Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’, (which isn’t about birds!) It’s quite hilarious at times and rich in warmth and down-to-earth wisdom. At one point there is an account of her visit to a priest because she is feeling chaotic and vulnerable in her writing. She talks about the unpredictable nature of being a writer, of working in a space where you can go from success to failure in the blink of an eye, or the turn of a page. She feels thrown by the fickle way the world responds, by never knowing how a piece will be received, wanting the positive response (of course) but not knowing what she will get, from one book or essay to the next. The priest agrees that she is in need of some peace and quiet and reflects on her search for serenity amidst all the chaos that she feels. Abbreviated, he responds as follows: “The world can’t give you that serenity. The world can’t give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts … But the good news is that by the same token, the world can’t take it away.” Continue reading
Most of the bloggers that I follow are based in the global North where winter season is round about now making its entrance. Here in the South, we are welcoming in our summer with that distinct lift to the spirits that accompanies this time of year, where you can feel yourself stepping out of the cold and into the light. We too have had our Covid related challenges: South Africa at one point this year was carrying the third or fourth highest infection rate globally, but thankfully that has changed dramatically for the better (not to take anything for granted here). Right now there is plenty of fresh green growth abounding- we have had one or two of the afternoon thunderstorms that are so typical of the Johannesburg Highveld, with some light hailstones- so cooling to the earth as they soak the soil with their nourishing nitrates following a dry and dusty September. This week we find ourselves in the midst of a bit of a heat wave, and yesterday I was in the garden before 8am in bare feet and a sundress, and by mid afternoon the temperature peaked at around 33 degrees celsius on our south facing slope.
In the early years of microwave ovens, when I still lived at home with my parents, there was the adage of ‘don’t cover your food with cling film in the microwave, it will give you cancer.’ Whether the whole truth or not, a lot of people remain instinctively mistrustful of single use plastics, whether out of concern for personal individual health or environmental health. I for one choose not to use cling film. I have not used it for many years and never have it in the house. I prefer to find other ways of wrapping and storing my food. There is enough evidence to conclude that single use plastics ultimately do our health no favours, and it cannot be argued that it is wreaking havoc upon our natural environment as we speak. They remain however, a cheap and convenient kitchen and pantry aid. It is this convenience that attracts us, and keeps us coming back for more. October is breast cancer awareness month in South Africa. And while thankfully it has not affected me personally, I know plenty of women (it can affect men too), including a sibling, who are breast cancer survivors. Continue reading
Out on the street, on the pavement at the driveway entrance of my neighbour’s property, water is flowing out unchecked from underneath a municipal water main’s cover. This has continued unabated for weeks. Our precious natural resources flowing down the street– wasted, unharnessed, unused. This particular neighbour and I have been trying to get the matter resolved: endless calls to the Municipality (COJ), some of which have gone unanswered; and most recently my calls and emails to our local Councillor who, with his own particular frustrations in being able to influence the matter, was yet hopeful that it would be resolved by last Friday 02 October. But still nothing. I have posted messages on our street’s Whatsapp neighbourhood group, suggesting that others jump in to call COJ and put pressure on them there. My thinking is that if others get involved, we may have a better chance of expediting a positive result. Continue reading
I haven’t blogged about my garden in a while, and there is no time like the present as here in the global South we move steadily into Summer with temperatures in Johannesburg heading into the upper 20’s, and the first of our wonderful seasonal thunderstorms making an appearance. For me there is nothing that shouts Summer like those lovely soothing Highveld rains, bringing moisture and nourishment to our thirsty gardens, and that unmistakable fresh earthy tang to the air. One of the tasks that I set myself as we go into our summertime here, is to try not to let anything go to waste, although our home grown compost heaps take care of any surplus anyway. Nevertheless, I like to make full use of all that we grow, so that it ends up on our plates as far as possible, and not on the compost heap. I grow a lot of Asian Greens here in our garden in the winter time. They grow beautifully here, in the relatively protected area under the branches of the almond and the apple trees, safe from the harshest of the cold and the threat of overnight winter frost. But come the first weeks of the warmer weather, typically from late August and beyond, the greens will rapidly go to seed, with little yellow flowers appearing on long stems which suddenly ‘bolt’ almost overnight in the warm, dry weather before the rains come. Continue reading
I think back to myself growing up sometimes: to the achiever wanting to do her best, wanting to please her parents and to be acceptable and likeable in the eyes of other kids, and with any luck to be invited to their birthday parties. I certainly would have been horrified, devastated even, at being considered not normal. Who would want that? In many ways it was easier to be average rather than the achiever at school. Average was synonymous with normal, and this is what made you acceptable in the eyes of the other kids. Yes, accolades can be nice, although not necessarily if you are painfully shy, as I was. Being singled out in the school hall or the classroom always gave me the shakes and sweaty palms and a furious blush for all to see. And of course being too much of an achiever can be alienating—you can end up being regarded as different by the other kids, when all you want is just to be part of things– regular, ordinary even. More than anything I just wanted to be normal, acceptable, one of the group; not to be told by the boys, as I recall as a Tween ballet dancer: “Your legs are so thin they are just not normal.”
Normal is a big word: it talks to us of where and how we ‘should be’, it lets us know how the ball park has been set out, where the safe area is, where we need to be to at least be known to be functional and ‘healthy’. Normal is also a very small, mean word; one used freely by those who judge us to be not really accepted or acceptable in their small, mean opinion Continue reading
Sunday night was one of those nights. You wake up in the early hours to make a quick trip down the hall and then that’s it. Sleep is well and truly interrupted. The rhythm is gone, never to be seen again– for tonight, anyway. After twenty minutes or so, despite tissue salts (#6 Kali Phos may help), conscious slow breathing and counting backwards from 100, I’m still there, firmly in the grip of something that is bigger than my toolkit and all my best intentions. Sometimes I even forget about the toolkit—I forget to check on myself and what is happening with my thoughts, and how these may be affecting my breath and heart rate. A sudden recollection of a disagreement at work or at home may lead to an unexpected welling up of outrage, resentment, or whatever, and before you know it you are confronting that person in your head, you are feeling the steaminess of anger and righteous indignation, your heart rate goes up as your blood starts to boil, and in no time you are wide awake, living those unpleasant memories, and any hope of sleep has left the building!