Archive for August, 2007

Virtual Walk.

August 24, 2007

I’ve thrown the morning paper down with disgust and despair and retreated to the study. The two main stories concern Dubya’s latest blathering on the hopelessly complicated Iraqi situation and the happy news that new pandemic-potential diseases are now developing and spreading at the rate of knots. Happy breakfast, everyone.

As I sat down, I realised that this is possibly the last time I will write from this desk because tomorrow we move the furniture to the storage unit and the house will be bare and empty, awaiting the arrival of the new people. I will miss this place terribly and up until now have scarcely allowed myself to think about that aspect of leaving. Twenty-one years of living, loving, hating and growing are embedded here and you don’t leave all that without a backward glance. When we arrived, it was to a large grassy paddock, protected from the cold southerly blasts by a large row of lawsoniana. There were no other trees, except for a huge old-man pine, which was felled to make room for the house. There were no gardens, no shrubs or bushes, no flowers, no vegetables.

If I raise my eyes just a little and glance out of the window, I can see a row of raised beds running along the length of the house. One is full of primulas and their glowing jewel colours defiantly light the grey morning and provide a contrast to the flowering quince above them. Its pink flowers cover the bare branches which are alive with waxeyes who are there for the tiny insects that live among the petals. They visit every morning around this time and are deft little acrobats, navigating with ease through the sharp thorns and hanging upside down by their strong little feet. They are not in the least bit shy. At first, you only see one or two, their green and grey blending with the bark, but watch for a moment, and you will see that there are six, eight, ten, dozens, moving in the tree and on the ground beneath. Suddenly, they are done and rush away, flying in little swoops to their next destination.

Look a little to the right and the stately deep purple heads of a winter rose rises up from its low lying leaves. It seeded last year and its children, still in miniature, are growing up around its feet. Further on, Grandma’s pinks are just starting to put out their spring leaf tips. If you could come back later in the season and see them in flower, you would be met by a wonderful fragrance. Grandma’s pinks have been with me since our girl was two years old. And speaking of our girl, there is the David Austin rose that shares her name. I chose it because it is just like her – the flowers are a warm deep pink with peach and gold tones at the centre and the scent is heady, rich and voluptuous.

Walk along a little further and you will come to a large bed filled with variegated flaxes, cabbage trees, kowhai and a blood-red rhododendron. This garden really was created with blood and sweat. It once housed three huge lawsoniana whose branches reached out so far that they almost touched the house. Higher that the roof at the two story end, the trees loomed and menaced, their cold shadows blocking all sun and light. The year after H. died, we felled them and the transformation to the backyard was instant.

I could walk you right through the rest of the garden, but I know that I’d lose my blaudience long before we got right around, so we’ll just stop one more time and that is in front of Mum’s kowhai. This is a very significant tree for me. It was grown from seed taken from the huge tree that grew in the backyard at Belmont, my last childhood home. That was a stately being, rising up in beautiful form beside the house. The Wahine storm took it, smashing it and splitting the trunk right down the centre. Mum collected seed from its felled branches and grew a bonsai which lived for years in a pot on the back porch. That bonsai was admired and coveted by many and when Mum died, I whipped it away to the farm and planted it. It has since grown into a beautiful tree. When it flowers in late spring, tui, bellbirds and kereru flock to it’s golden flowers, drinking the nectar and bickering among themselves over territory and mates. Last week, I collected seed from its branches. I plan to sow them in various safe places as we travel around, but I will keep some in reserve. One day there will be a new garden and I’ll sow that seed and maybe in the far off future our grandchildren will lie in the grass beneath a kowhai tree, looking up at tui feeding in the spring.

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Great release leads to frantic activity.

August 21, 2007

Yeah – I know that it’s usually the other way round, but after two years of being on the market, the farm has finally sold. You may wonder why it took so long, so I’ll back the bus up a bit and explain.

Around twenty-three years ago, three families decided that they wanted to give co-operative living a shot. Not in hippie everyone-loves-everyone-but who-does-the-work style, but more of a co-living; a sharing of a commonly owned land and possessions. We searched for a year to find the land, and found a bare block of 116 acres/46 hectares in a beautiful spot not far from the capital city. This was purchased and as we very much wanted to retain our individual family identities, we designed a large house that comprised three completely separate living areas, each of which could access the others, but all under the same roof.

We lived a pretty basic life in on-site caravans for a few years while we built, this being done with our own blistered hands, mainly at weekends. Eighteen months into the building process, one of the families decided that they no longer wanted to be part of the co-operative and moved out, leaving the remaining two couples and their collective four children to complete the task.

Eventually the house was completed to the stage that first one, then later the other family could move in.

I won’t attempt to describe the dynamics of co-operative living here, except to say that it was an extremely challenging time, physically, financially, socially and personally. The challenges were only exacerbated by the cultural mix of differing Kiwi and German attitudes and expectations and by the complex and somewhat individualistic characters of the adults involved. Throw injury, illness and death into the mix and the challenges went through the roof.

The original intention had been that we would gradually expand the community, eventually building a self-sustaining mini-village system, where a wide range of ages would live co-operatively, providing a safe birth-to-death haven. We were young and very idealistic and not very realistic and the challenge never really got off the ground.

The years rolled on. One of us departed for the spiritual world, the kids began leaving home and eventually there were only three of us, knocking around in a vast ten bedroom, three living room, two kitchen house. We decided that we had to sell. Easy peasy, you might think.

But wait. There’s more. One of the remaining three has been told by a friend that the property is worth *$insert astronomical number.* In reality it is worth *$insert much less.* Emotional price has nothing to do with it. A property is, after all, only worth, in dollar terms, what the market will pay. It took two years to talk him down to a realistic view. The other factor in the long sale time is simply the size. Many came to see, most loved it and wanted it, few had a reason to buy such a huge place.

Eventually, someone came with an acceptable offer, although it was a close-run thing. Much fast talking was required on the part of yours truly and the Manpet to convince our partner that this really, really was the time to take the money and run.

And so – great release and much frantic activity – the time from going unconditional to settlement gives us only twenty-four days to pack up the detritus of twenty-one years of collective living and move out…….