The Project Debrief – Attack of the Killer Couch

Maybe it’s not symbolic of the whole year in general, but it sure is special when Eva decides to crawl under the fold-out couch and then climb up inside the mechanism and shoot her paw out between the couch cushions to slash at your feet and wake you up just 4 hours into your recovery from a 14-hour shift. All your brain can think is “Why is the couch trying to kill me?!?!” screamed at full mental volume. And then you see the little white-tipped paw retreat back beneath the cushions and realize that it’s just someone cute being a dick to you because they find it amusing.

It’s probably because I took her frog off her. It was a real frog, hiding among my potted plants, and it was squealing with that horrid noise that distressed frogs use. It appeared unharmed, if only because she was so put off by the sound that she was just standing back, sniffing and occasionally tentatively batting at it. So I put a pot over it, and distracted all of the cats with treats while I let the frog get away. This apparently meant that Eva was going to spend the next few hours primed with the caffeine high of hunting energy… and that she was going to get more creative with her stalking technique.

Or perhaps this is symbolic of the year in general. We started the year fairly settled and looking for a pretty section to buy. We’d put in a lot of work trying to find a place over the previous year, and we juggled a few squirming cats and distressed frogs, but we were generally optimistic about our future here. And then we found a place and (despite some issues trying to sort out the finances) we bought it. Sorted.

But perhaps the financial issues at the start were just a sign of things to come. Everything seemed fairly settled and the tasks were moving ahead well when the proverbial couch decided to try and kill us. Surprise! You don’t have a mortgage anymore!… Surprise! It turns out that you never did!

That was tough. And the fact that this sweeping change piled on top of the recent revelation that my job no longer had the potential for future growth… well it was like falling down a deep well. Trapped. No way out. Wondering how the heck you ended up here.

And I have ended the year still trying to climb out of that well. Less optimistic than when we started, but persisting forward because there are no other options. There are still a lot of things that need to be sorted out for the house. I’ve had a couple of encouraging sniffs at new jobs, but no concrete offers at this stage. Still, we are trying to climb.

In between those 14-hour shifts…



Property Inspection

Thursday is the first day of Summer in New Zealand. It’s so hard to believe that we’re almost up to summer already.

We had a property inspection today. I was expecting it to be in the first week of December, as they seem to come every 4 months and the last one was in the first week of August, but (Bad Jelly) the Property Manager decided to spring it on us a week early and tell me on Friday (right before my big weekend). Just because. I think she wanted to catch us off guard because she likes writing us nasty letters about how I run the garden. She wanted me to have the roses pruned in April…

My husband has been amazing (as always) and cleaned the whole house while I was at work over the weekend. He just left me the grossest bits (at my request) – the bathroom and the cat litter trays. So at least I can feel like I’m contributing more than just the weeding. Plus I got to bring some lavender in from the garden and make the bathroom both look and smell pretty.

In the end, it was several days of work for just 5 minutes of inspection. They wander around, take lots of photos, accuse us of damage that was already here when we moved in, act like we’re the devil and we’re hiding a meth lab somewhere. All the usual stuff that I’ve come to expect from this company. I’m dying for the day when we can tell them that we’re moving out and they can go fuck themselves, but so far they don’t know that we’ve bought a section and are getting a house built. We’ve never rented through an agency before and after dealing with these people I’d never do it again. It seems to be the way that everything goes in Auckland though.

However, now that that’s done, I can spend Wednesday putting in my vegetable seedlings and just generally enjoying my garden time once again. Two weeks after planting the seeds, the black beans have now not only germinated but are quickly out-growing their peat pots. My sunflowers and dwarf green beans aren’t far behind, and there’s also rocket and lettuces to plant out. It’s nice when things work, but also extra rewarding to see food spring up from virtually nothing. Bring on summer…




Giving Thanks

Why exactly do we insist on giving thanks by eating copious amounts of food? It does kind of make sense if we are thankful for a harvest, and if the weeks leading up to this have been starving times where we waited impatiently for the food to come… But like most people in the Western world, I have a supermarket nearby, so the highs and lows of subsistence farming no longer affect me. Basically I’m just showing thanks through gluttony.

And there’s still Christmas to come.

My husband was grateful though. Grateful that I would rush home after 11 hours at work to cook a big meal so that he could come home from his work day and eat dinner with his wife. And I am grateful that he is wonderful and he wants to have a meal with me. And that he will do the dishes.

I’m grateful that we finally found a section to buy, and figured out how to make the loan work, even though it’s currently crippling us financially.

I’m grateful that we have a happy home, with 3 sometimes-lovely cats (even though Scrappy kept jumping up on the table throughout dinner and trying to steal turkey off our plates).

I’m grateful that our plants are mostly growing, and in a few months there will be harvests of our own to do.

But mostly I am grateful for him and how supportive and kind he is. I am grateful for that every day.

Despite the harshness of the past winter, there is so much to be grateful for this year.


Summer is Coming

Again, as anticipated, Wednesday was only really productive because we managed to spend some time up at the section. My husband attacked the mountains of weeds with his new brush cutter, while I kept planting.

It’s seriously starting to feel like the planting is neverending. I still have a large collection of about 80 plants in pots out by our back door, waiting to get big enough to be taken to their new home. And then there are all the plants in our current garden that I brought from our old house and want to move on to the new one. Hydrangeas, kniphofia, magnolias, heucheras, eucomis, amaryllis, acanthus, liriope, various ferns, various herbs, seemingly endless bulbs, all those irises… Most of these will now have to wait until autumn before I can dig them up. And since we’ve now got our new build dates for the house (delivery will be in April), that timing actually works.

In the meantime (and rather late) I’ve continued to move across the summer flowering canna and calla lilies before they get too big. My calla bulbs have been going for a few years now, and most are large and healthy and as big as my fist. They always put on a spectacular show through the summer months. My canna lilies are a new addition this season – an unusual, bold, pink, canna iridiflora that grows along the roadside in places around this area, and is always very striking.

As spring wanes into summer there’s not much left at the new section that’s in flower, but what I am seeing is a lot of new growth and a lot of new promise for the months ahead. Possibly a bit boring to photograph for a blog post, but it’s making me very happy all the same.

Canna lilies already in bud, with newly planted avocado trees behind
Calla bulbs already sending up shoots
Nectarine tree, much happier now that I got rid of all the leaf curl
Apricot tree, which stubbornly refused to bud up while it was in a planter bag, now putting on new leaves just two weeks after being planted in the ground
Potatoes… so many potatoes…




As anticipated, we needed Thursday to recover from all the running around on Wednesday. It was a day of nothing but naps and grocery shopping and DVDs of Seinfeld. Getting old sucks.

However, I will make a little note of the fact that my passionfruit vine is flowering like crazy and promising a good harvest of fruit this summer. That will be a nice change from last year, when we got nothing.

I adore passionfruit, and not just because the flowers (above) look like something from an alien world. If you live in a warm enough location, the fruit are about as perfect as can be: sweet, juicy, fun to pop open right off the vine. Like dessert on a plant. I will definitely plant one (or five) at the new section as soon as I have some kind of support for them to climb. The downside is that they hate frost, so if you get an unseasonable cold snap during spring, you can pretty much kiss the fruit goodbye.

However, this year the vine is helpfully climbing up our covered deck – possibly supplanting the annoying roses as well as providing itself with cover from the cold.

We got the new build date for the house today as well: delivery will be in April. So we will still be here through the summer. And we’ll get to eat these passionfruit.


And somehow we’ll also have to figure out how to pay both rent and a mortgage throughout this whole period without crippling ourselves financially. Somehow.



Mortgage. No “Yay” this time.

Perhaps the flowers were lucky flowers. Perhaps it was also the knowledge that Friday was going to be my only day off this week. Or perhaps it was the mortgage.

But I slept. From dozing off at 9pm to awaking now, peacefully, at 10am. With only one little break for an hour in the middle when the storm woke me up.

It is very stormy, and one of the things on my list today is definitely to go and check on our shed to make sure the roof hasn’t blown off. While I’m there, I might plant some trees, and do some general tidying up.

Other chores on my list are cleaning the fish tanks, making scones, picking up a prescription, and printing out our mortgage documents.

… I had thought I would be jumping up and down with joy.

Continue reading Mortgage. No “Yay” this time.

Not a House, but it has a Roof

Last week, I had to get that course assignment done. And the evenings have been filled with heavy rain lately. These are really my only two excuses for having not been up to our section in a couple of weeks.

I thought the tulips would have been all washed up and finished, but happily there they were. Purple Prince looking very regal among the potatoes:

The late daffodils I planted are starting to form buds too, and the ruby-colored broom is an absolute wash of flowers. I really need to plant more of this. It’s gorgeous:



But anyway, that’s enough about flowers. Today was meant to be all about building the shed. The first building that plot of land has ever had…

Continue reading Not a House, but it has a Roof

Getting there

Despite the rain and general dreariness of our Saturday, my lovely husband agreed to come and help with planting some trees at the new section. Now that it’s spring, it’s also heartening to see a little bit more growth with every passing day. The strawberries I planted a few days ago are clearly very happy with the move and have already started to show the curled push of new leaves. The boysenberries’ buds have swollen and are about to burst into leaf, and the rhubarb at least continues to survive. Only the tulips are being stubbornly slow – colored up but lingering low and not yet open.

After my conversations with the hairdresser on Tuesday, I had bought a selection of fast-growing and fairly hardy trees to provide a variegated windbreak. In the end I settled on he following group, since they have a wide mixture of color and foliage:

The benefits of growing a mixture of trees together will be that the shorter ones fill in the gaps in the taller ones, and if one type fails, the others should take its place. Plus hopefully they will compete with one another a little less. I like the idea of a uniform hedge, but prefer the idea of a hedge that grows quicker and has a better chance of survival. To give them an extra kick, we also cleared some old expired meat out of our freezer and buried it under each tree. Blood and bone fertilizer the old fashioned way – provided the neighbor’s dogs don’t find it.


The one part of the garden that has so far really struggled is the hedge of port wine magnolias that I planted along the top of the section. These shrubs need a bit of protection from wind until they get bigger, so I’d put windbreak fabric along the fence to give them a head start. Unfortunately, the neighbor’s steers decided that the magnolias looked tasty so they’ve pushed through the fabric and pruned all the shrubs along one side down to ground level.

I’ve grown port wine magnolias along a farm fence before, and never had that problem with cattle eating them. However, these boys are obviously just curious and a bit bored… as evidenced by their inspection of Rob’s work while he fixed the windbreak fabric. I get the feeling that they won’t be thwarted for long. They are very interested in everything we are doing, and we might just be preparing them a salad.


Perhaps I should bring them a present next time. Something tastier than magnolias.


Truthfully, I thought they’d died.

I planted them very late – June – and the bulbs had already started to dry out and go moldy in the bag. I’d planted a load of ixias at the same time, but they quickly shot up with green tops – very happy to be in the ground, despite the late start. Yet the tulips sat and sulked, with no sign of life at all. So I’d presumed that they were tulips no more, and were slowly turning themselves into compost. Imagine my surprise to return to the section today and see not only leaf tips but emerging purple flowers.

Jeez, now I’ll have to go back and do more work next week so that I can enjoy the blooms. Otherwise they will just be wasted on… well, on the neighbors.

Still, this afternoon was going to be all about potatoes. And yams. And shallots. And garlic. Just buried stuff, really. Very late, very underground things.

Rob is on his second week of work at his new job – and it’s 12-hour shifts with four days on and four days off. Yet despite having just done four 12-hour days, he took his first rest day of this week to come and give me a hand with the garden, bless him. He cleared the weeds while I followed up with the fertilizer and taters. I packed the beds pretty tight, so hopefully they crowd out the weeds. It was actually a very nice way to spend the afternoon together.

And in general I’m pretty chuffed with how few plants we’ve lost (2) and how well most things seem to be coping with a full month of neglect. Some are suffering a bit from wind burn, like the date palm and Puka below:

But others (like the Manuka and ruby broom) are getting their feet under them and starting to flower:

Overall, I’m very hopeful about seeing all our hard work really start to prosper over the spring and summer.

Plus, yams. Yams and potatoes for the Christmas table. 2017. Maybe.

At the very least, there will be food available when we move in… someday.



Gantting My Teeth

I thought it would be easy.

I’m doing a course online, with the intention of improving my HR skills for work. It was my boss’s idea. One of the first papers I could select was a paper on Project Management, which seemed like a very straightforward thing to cram into my already busy life. Basically my entire career has been project management. I even do (housey stuff) project management in my spare time. I am a project manager. Doing a course in it should be like relearning primary-level mathematics: familiar and very, very easy.

Except, when was the last time you sat down and did long division? Really? Chances are you just grab a calculator or automatically know the answer without having to explain why. It’s the explaining why that’s causing my current struggle.

Continue reading Gantting My Teeth