Light footfalls in the Forest


I’m back… after a lull and a few health issues, can’t resist coming back to blogging. I’ve kept up with reading all my old friends, under the radar, and am up with the play on the health and antics of various cats and dogs and pigs, and people! And thanks to the magic of technology, the internet has kept me up to date on the strange happenings around the world. I hesitate to put a name to the events which fill today’s headlines.

Here in our remote rainforest, politics and pollution, carbon footprints and climate change feel a long way away. Though I did calculate our carbon footprint today, and since we make one trip into town a week, amounting to fifty kilometres, catch our own water from the roof, and purify it, don’t waste water since we have a compost toilet, build our house with re-cycled windows, doors, kitchen bench, neighbour’s cast-off extractor hood and other donations, and only use electricity for heating, our footprint is fairly light.

D, my love, has used skateboard wheels to create a sliding door which purrs every time it’s opened, while a steel knitting needle and some big beads from a necklace have been used to fashion a light fitting that can be adjusted and moved above the dining table depending how many guests we have. He’s made exquisite sounding bells from divers cast off tanks which function as warning bells for us, and become presents for the people who are enchanted with the sound of the bells, and want one too.

A friend gave us an unwanted Italian stone plinth which, with a great, perfectly round concrete ball cast by D for me for Christmas, has become the focal point of my new garden; another friend delivered a ten foot pallet he wanted to dispose of, which has, with a few extra pieces of wood nailed on, become an elegant trellis barrier painted black and swathed in white wisteria, honeysuckle and star jasmine, dividing drive from garden.

Along the top of the trellis are ranged a row of perfect round black balls. They were once the feet of an armoire, and so ugly that I had them cut off, and have carted them around for the last nineteen years, hoping to find a use for them someday. That day has arrived. Painted black, and augmented with a big central one made by D, they have come into their own. The honeysuckle was grown from cuttings taken from the side of the road. The stubs of used candles are melted down and blended together to make candles for the storm lanterns down the drive when friends visit.

Arum lilies, dug up from a field at a friend’s farm, and roses grown from cuttings, fill the urns and pots, and on finding half a dozen miniature pink buckets in an op shop, I filled with them with pink cyclamens and lined them up on the steps to the house. I fill any gaps in the garden with big white marguerite daisies grown from cuttings – the original plant I bought back in 2003, and have kept supplies of these generous sized daisies ever since. At this moment in the porch are twenty- four flourishing little green rootlets waiting to be transferred to wherever they are needed. Ivy cuttings are also rooting quietly after a walk past an overgrown wall.

A raised vegetable garden is the next step… to be tackled when D has finished inserting two beautiful coloured lead light windows into the bathroom wall which looks out into the forest. They came from a dresser we bought for a song at the local rubbish tip shop. The hinges on the doors and handles would have cost more than we paid for the whole dresser if he had bought them new, D says.

And as well as the hardware, we have the lead light doors to the cupboard now transformed into windows, and the bottom shelves, divested of doors, painted white and flossied up with a bit of moulding, matching another sturdy bookshelf the other side of the room.

The satisfaction of this way of life is immense. Though we are surrounded in the forest by splendid architect designed dwellings furnished with architect-speak fashionable furniture, black leather Mies van der Rohe-like loungers, cow-hide rugs, low backed sofas, I am unmoved by this elegance. I still love my ancient seven-foot sofa, bought from an acquaintance twenty- five years ago when it was already twenty- five years old. New feet gave it a new lease of life, and loose covers made from hemp twenty years ago are still as good as new.

My antique French Provincial arm chairs are still comfortable, even though the cat appropriated them all the years of her life, and the old painted peasant looking chest of drawers gives me as much pleasure as our walnut and rosewood antiques of yesteryear. Pretty china, rugs and cushions, lamps and books have been the same companions for the last four decades.

And books continue to find their way in. Last week it was a book on Tuscany found for a dollar at the local rubbish tip shop. It’s a big illustrated hymn to Tuscany by Frances Mayes, whose other books on finding her Italian house have always enchanted me. This one is filled with exquisite pictures, disquisitions on art and architecture,  wine, and food and recipes. She tells us that when children are born in Italy, they say they have entered the light. The poetry and beauty of this idea of emerging from the darkness of the womb into the light of the world I find very moving.

Mayes says that Italians have the lowest rate of suicide in the world. She puts it down to the contentment of living amid so much deeply satisfying beauty. She also says that Italians are very low on obesity scales compared with other countries, and she puts this down to the fact that they eat such nourishing delicious food, that they feel satisfied and don’t need to fill up with junk food and sugar treats.

So needless to say, I bustled into my kitchen, and began experimenting with her take on Tuscan food, which doesn’t rely on fancy ingredients, and at a quick glance just seems to require good olive oil, good bread, fresh vegetables, including garlic, fennel and mushrooms and devotion to good food! That devotion I have in spades.

Watch this space!




Filed under environment, flowers, gardens, life/style, pollution, sustainability, Thoughts on writing and life, uncategorised, Uncategorized

49 responses to “Light footfalls in the Forest

  1. Great to have you back. I have missed your inspiring words of calm. Leaving in Waipu up in the hills I have a real affinity for what you describe. Life is good and I would much rather be 72 than 22. Cheers Pat


  2. How wonderful to have you back to enchant us and inform us. I was using your apple crumble recipe a couple of weeks ago and wondered how you were. Now I know. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am delighted to have your back in the blogging community. You have been missed and your appearance adds joy, happiness and laughter to our conversations. . You live abundantly and inspire me to do the same. Your place is ablaze with activity and I love how you add the old with the new, the old becoming the new. I imagine myself in your garden, breathing the air of a rainforest. Welcome back, dear friend.


  4. Anonymous

    Hurray!!!……such a pleasing to see you appear …oh how I’ve missed your writings! I was making your salmon kedgeree only the other day & musing on your whereabouts & doings. You’re back….such joy!!!!


  5. Angela

    Help I’ve become anonymous….better fill in the boxes & regain a name!


  6. Anonymous

    Wonderful to have you back. Have been thinking of you recently so delighted to see your blog. Your life seems to be idyllic in amongst the forest


  7. Bev Russell

    Dear Valerie, What a great surprise. We are in Auckland for a specialist appt. tomorrow and the place where we stay has WiFi. I was fiddling on the I pad and there was your new blog. Whee. Deirdre’s mother and father have just called in and Harry is good with these little machines. I love your bloggs and have often wanted to send a little reply and our love, so here goes ,with his help. Not sure if it will be blocked somehow as you would get sooooo many. Anyway, love from John and Beverly .

    Sent from my iPad



    • Hello Beverly,
      What a lovely surprise to see your message, thank you so much….
      I hope you and John are well, and thank you again for Deirdre’s beautiful book, I often browse through both the verses and the gorgeous to you both, Valerie


  8. So nice to hear from you again. I had been wondering… It sounds like you have created a haven in your forest. I use at least one fennel bulb a week in my kitchen! xo


  9. Jane Sturgeon

    Oh my lovely, how good to see you back here. Valerie, your wonderful way of living, viewing the world and writing is a joy and I am grateful for this start to my day. Thank you. You have a special way of weaving the old with the new. Many are enchanted by Italy and I went as a child, but I feel the pull to go as an adult. Happy cooking and gardening to you. ❤ Wrapping you both in much ❤


  10. Always lovely to read your posts val… so pleased you are feeling well and enjoying your amazing environment❤️ much love😘


  11. You have been missed. Hope the health issues are things of the past. Your lifestyle seems wonderful, indeed.


  12. Dear Valerie,

    How wonderful to see you back in the blogosphere! I once told D that I thought you were both nuts for the life you chose and never dreamt I could be so wrong. From the pictures he’s shared with me, I’m impressed with your simple but elegant home in the valley. I’ve never known him to be so happy and contented, and you, my dear friend are a huge part of that. I enjoy your lovely descriptions and hope the health issues are behind you. Give my love to himself and have him give you a hug in return from me.




  13. I am so delighted to have your back, I always miss you when you have a wee blog break.
    I just love the joy, happiness and laughter, which always seem to spread out beautifully for each of us to share with you.

    I thank you ever so much for this wee peek into your lovely life.



  14. How lovely to have a new blog post from you. Sorry to hear you’ve had some health issues – I hope all’s well.

    Looking forward to hearing about your Italian cooking. The language certainly sounds very poetic, with the example you mentioned. It’s similar in Spanish, where giving birth is “dar la luz” (literally, “to give light”). Aren’t languages wonderful?

    Very best wishes,
    Grace 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Rob

    Welcome back! We’ve missed you…


  16. Good to see you are back. Always at bit concerning when a blog goes quiet.


  17. Oh, Valerie, what a delight to find you in my inbox yesterday. Such a busy day ahead of me then I saved the pleasure of reading your words until this peaceful morning and, of course, I have not been disappointed.
    There is a serenity about your writing and your life in the rainforest that is beautiful to read and calming in a crazy world.
    I hopeyour health concerns are behind you and send you love. As David above said, it’s always worrying when a blog goes quiet. Love across the ether to you both.xx


    • Dear Sally,
      Lovely to find your message and smiling face…. thank you for the words you wrote about my writing, as you would know, intelligent encouragement is precious !
      You have my deepest admiration for the way you unfailingly find beauty all around you, and have both the energy and committment to record it and share it with us every day, summer or winter, rain or hail… you’re amazing…
      Much love, Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Juliet

    Valerie, what a pleasure to see you back on the blog and to read about your satisfying life style. I love that art of repurposing old things and can imagine stepping into your home and rejoicing at its warmth and beauty.


    • Juliet, what a treat to see your name, and read your lovely words.
      Don’t just imagine stepping into our home – come and see us… you can catch the ferry, and we pick you up, and put you back on the four o’clock ferry! .Friends often do this, and it’s a lovely day….


    • Hello Juliet…
      You take the ferry from the ferry building at nine or thereabouts ( check) The trip to Te Kouma, where the ferry stops, takes about two hours as the boat stops at several islands on the way. We meet you at Te Kouma and take you into town for a coffee and mosey around the lovely crafts, pottery – Barry Brickell etc, and then come back here. We return you to Te Kouma in time for the four pm ferry return.
      Best in summer !!!!
      See you then????


  19. Glad to have you back, Valerie! You’ve been busy and your home sounds like an artists or writers oasis. Some things I have are meaningful to me in longstanding and a myriad of ways. There is a 1930s chest of drawers I love which my father sanded and stained, and I have a firescreen which he renovated for me where I duly inserted the tapestry I’d sewn for it.

    I hope you are recovered from your health issues or at least making good progress. Cheers, Valerie!


  20. Hello Lynne, lovely to see your name and gorgeous pussy cat… hope all is well with you…I am fine now…
    I know what you mean about the things that are so precious… like so many families, mine aren’t interested in acquiring my family heirlooms, apart from my daughter…fashions and tastes are so different among the generations…

    Liked by 1 person

  21. It’s lovely to see you and it does indeed sound like a rewarding way to live, making use of everything and surrounded by unique pieces. It would be lovely to see some photos!


  22. Thank you Andrea,
    I’ve been reading your lovely blogs, and revelling in the rich plant and bird life and history you enjoy in your surroundings… Because NZ broke away from the land mass very early on we have quite a limited range of both plant and bird life here – no animals at all except for introduced species, which tend to be pests, like possums or wild pigs…many flightless birds, because they had no predators until humans invaded back in the fourteenth century- Maoris and Morioris…


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