Tag Archives: Tolkien

The staff/stuff of life


Just finished breakfast –  freshly ground coffee with one grind of salt and ten grinds of black pepper in my one person coffeepot,  a la Russian neighbour. Toast from my freshly made loaf of wholemeal bread, just out of the oven, made by Moi, manukau honey from the bees in our forest, and delicious Danish butter … pigs heaven for the likes of me…

I had Googled:
What is in white sliced bread? And the answer so horrified me, that I did endless research on unmucked- about flours from Australia, New Zealand Hawkes Bay, bakers in the English Cotswolds and others in New Zealand South Island…
This is the answer to the white sliced bread inquiry:
Wheat Flour [with Calcium, Iron, Niacin (B3) and Thiamin (B1)], Water, Yeast, Salt, Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Rapeseed and Sustainable Palm in varying proportions), Soya Flour, Preservative: Calcium Propionate; Emulsifiers: E481, E472e; Flour Treatment Agent: Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C ),and it’s bleached with chlorine  or calcium peroxide or other  equally unhealthy chemicals!

So I’ve now started using a brilliant no-knead bread recipe found on the wonderful internet – no hands at all, and just let it rise sitting on the kitchen bench – no fuss,  and have sourced from both our local supermarkets unmucked around white flour, as well as wholemeal…

I had lost this blog, and WordPress has changed so many times in the ten years I’ve been blogging, that I could no longer find the formula I used to use for getting back into it when I’d slipped out… I did try to jump through all the hoops, and tried hopelessly to decipher computer speak, which is  a language I’ve never learned. Finally after weeks of fruitless and frustrating endeavour I found there was a simple word actually on the blog. The word was Login. So I clicked on it, and to my naive amazement, found I was back in. So here I am ….

Meanwhile, trying to ignore climate change, wars, famine, floods and other catastrophes around the world, I’ve been concentrating on the things nearer home.
We can’t have pets here, and I miss having a dog after all the years of two or three at a time – seventeen rescued in all, and I miss having a cat too, after all the years of living with their sweet presence… they’re not allowed in this wild life sanctuary/forest, where the native birds who are mostly flightless, live on the ground.

So I find I have birds as pets – the two quail who lived here when we first came, have multiplied hideously in the seven years that we’ve been feeding them, and we now have twenty five ! They eat my flowers, so I’ve trained them to follow me from the garden up to the top of the drive when I call ‘come, come, come’. There they feast on the budgerigar seeds I scatter on a patch in the woods there. They love the budgerigar seeds best, and so do the sparrows.

The sparrows, green finches, chaffinches, grey warblers and black headed tits always know exactly where I am in the house – if I’m in the bedroom, they flutter around outside the bedroom window. If I’m sitting on the sofa in the sitting room, they cluster in the tree outside the french windows and gather on the veranda rail, until I go out and scatter seed for them in a patch on the other side of the house, so we don’t get their droppings.

I’m a total slave to them –  leaving my breakfast and my tea getting cold to rush up the drive followed by a line of quail scuttling after me, or little birds diving down from the trees all round to make a moving carpet of little brown bodies hoovering up the seeds. My husband is just as much their slave, and has made tiny concrete ramps for the steps in the garden, so the minute balls of fluff which are baby quails, can scurry after their parents up the steps!

And while we have been battling with the result of too much rain – landslides on the roads, pinning us inside the high wrought iron gates of our sanctuary, I’ve  watched with amazement the drought the other side of the world – items of news like the great Rhine river closing to traffic because it’s so low – and wonder how the EU trade will continue, and discover that the source of the mighty Thames has dried up, with just a trickle of water five miles further downstream.

I can’t understand why draconian water restrictions aren’t in place… not just hose pipe restrictions, and polite requests to use a low setting on lavatory cisterns. When we lived in Hong Kong in 1965- 70, Mao Tse Tung cut off the water to Hong Kong one hot summer, and all four million-plus people were rationed to four hours of water every four days, when the water was switched on from eight o’ clock till midnight.
Everyone filled their kettles  and saucepans and jugs and baths to try to last the four days, with long queues of desperate Chinese lining the streets to the nearest tap/standpipe, staggering home with a bucket each side. 

Because our army quarter was on the top floor of a twelve story building, the pressure took two hours to build up, so with two toddlers, I had two hours of water every four days, in the middle of a steaming, hot tropical summer we managed – the whole colony stayed at home that night, catching up on washing clothes and sheets,  and having  showers and baths and shampoos  to last for the next four days ! This ordeal by water lasted for the four hottest  months of the year,  but we emerged unscathed, if a little smelly !!!
As a friend said “Bah, the world is full of snowflakes who couldn’t cope – they’d probably melt if confronted with such a challenge !”

So watching the world and its wars from the long perspective of the ‘silent generation’ ( those of us born before 1945), I sometimes wonder if TS Eliot’s words that ‘the world will end not with a bang, but with a whimper’ are the most optimistic we can hope for… But I still cling to Tolkien:
“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”
Simply put – the Scouts motto – DOB – do our best !

Food for Threadbare Gourmets


This is the wonderful recipe for no-knead bread I gleaned from the internet, with my own slight tweaks.
artisanbreadwithsteve on Youtube was the original source.
475 mls of cold water1  1/4 teasp instant yeast1 1/2 teasp salt1 tablesp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of  organic unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
Pour water into a bowl, and stir in the next three ingredients. Then add the flours and mix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrapping or even a shower cap, and leave on the kitchen bench for eight hours.
Stir it all again, as it dwindles down to size again, and sprinkle oats or sesame seeds on top.
Tip into a bowl or saucepan with plenty of room for the dough to rise.
Cover with a damp tea-towel ( no lint) and leave to rise again for about 30  minutes to an hour.
Heat the oven to 400 C, and oil a dutch oven with olive or grape seed oil, and put in the oven to heat up.
Tip the risen dough into the hot Dutch oven, and bake in the oven for forty minutes.

Watching the dough rise throughout the day has become one of my hobbies…  sometimes I use more white flour instead of wholemeal – just because…

Before I discovered a source for organic flour, I used ordinary flour, and the loaf still tasted good.
The original source for the word ‘lady,’ came from ancient Norse, and it meant ‘loaf kneader.’
Bon appetit !

21 Comments

Filed under cookery/recipes, history

Frogs and Tigers and Us

Image result for pics of archey's frogs

A full moon shone through the tree-tops, and apart from the hooting of a distant morepork, and the autumn cricket symphony, not even the careful movements of the four silent searchers disturbed the peace of the forest.

Then a hushed excited exclamation came from Charlotte: “I’ve found one – it’s a baby!”  The other seekers carefully stepped across the lines of coloured string which separated them, and gazed at a perfect, tiny jewel-like creature, smaller than the size of a thumb nail, half hidden beneath a frond of fern, the first find of the night.

A baby Archey!

This is how the two researchers from Auckland Zoo, on their annual visit to monitor our resident Archey’s, began their silent night of seeking for these precious creatures – living fossils – which are among the world’s oldest frogs, and almost unchanged since their 150 million- year- old relatives flourished here.

There are now only two populations left in the world, and one of them survives here in the protected forest where I live. Two zoologists, specialists in frogs, have just been here for four nights monitoring both frogs and our rare striped and forest geckoes. Sara, a resident and our own indefatigable discoverer of so many frogs and rare geckoes, and an expert at both detecting and recording them, organised the searches.

Using coloured string Sara has measured out into four sections a ten-metre square grid on her property. She and the experts from the zoo re-visit this site just once a year to check on the frog population, as to do so more often would be too invasive. (Our friends from the zoo also return four times a year to count and measure and monitor the rare geckos which live here).

By searching the same area each time, they are able to assess the size of the Archey’s population and hope eventually to discover whether it is thriving or declining, as sadly 43 per cent of all such creatures are declining in this country.

Finding these tiny and elusive creatures is challenging. They are usually hidden by fern fronds or leaves, and as in the case of the first find of the night, are often so tiny they are almost invisible. Their camouflaged colours vary from mottled greens to rich browns and pale sandy markings. However, the eagle-eyed team are now experienced enough to spot them.

When they do, they use a surgical glove when holding the frogs so as not to contaminate them, and a separate glove for each frog. They mark and number where they found the frog, and gently slip the tiny creature into a see-through plastic bag, giving it the same identifying name. The bag is then pinned to a nearby tree, until the search is ended, when they are all gathered up. The time, temperature, weather conditions and GPS co-ordinates of each frog’s whereabouts are also recorded.

Back at base, each frog is carefully placed within a protective canvas square, and photographed using mirrors, so as not to disturb the frog, yet capturing all angles in a single shot. It’s then moved to be weighed on very sensitive scales, and then measured. When this careful record has been completed, the frog is taken back to where he was found.

Archey’s frogs don’t need water like most frogs, and produce their tadpoles in a gelatinous sac. When they’re hatched, the male frog carries the froglets around on his back until they have full metamorphosed. The minute exquisite froglets we saw were complete.

To watch the dedicated researchers carry out their painstaking task – first finding their quarry using their torches in the dark forest, then carrying out the incredibly detailed and meticulous procedures laid down by the Department of Conservation (DOC) was so impressive. Anyone handling these precious creatures must have a license from DOC to do so.

Beginning the search at nine o clock, they ended at six in the morning. They did this for four nights, as well as searching, finding, recording, measuring and going through the whole procedure with the rare Coromandel Striped gecko which also survives on the estate.

Geckos are slightly easier to find since they are bigger, and they are just as beautiful. Like the frogs, each one has different markings so they can be recognised from one monitoring session to the next. They have the same sort of protuberant eyes as the frogs, and like the frogs too, tiny exquisite little fingers on their feet. Geckos also have ‘sticky’ feet: their toes are covered with microscopic hairs that allow them to climb sheer surfaces and even walk upside down across a ceiling.

As a somewhat ignorant observer, I felt so privileged to see these rare and ancient creatures who live amongst us as they have done for milleniums, and who are struggling to survive with so many enemies like rats, stoats, possums etc who feast on them. Our predator control programme is absolutely vital to their survival, and our whole community is dedicated to the government’s hopeful policy of a predator free country. Our residents also continue their commitment to our precious wild life with their constant checking and setting of predator traps all over the forest.

To be there with the little research team – even for only one night  – gave me such a profound insight into the richness of our environment, not just the Archey’s and geckos, but insect life which included spiders with beautiful markings as they spun their webs, long legged ones picking their way delicately through the fallen leaves, millipedes which curled into a tiny round ball looking like a large blue-berry, young wetas, and the background of crickets serenading us.

As I write, I look out on a peaceful vista of trees stretching across to the top of our forested mountain range. I watch green silver eyes feasting on insects clinging to the bark of the karaka tree beyond the veranda, and watch the tiny grey warblers and black headed tits flitting among the foliage, looking for lunch, and green finches perching there. Bell birds sends their melodious notes floating across the green valley, and it’s hard to realise that I am in fact sitting here in the midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction, the worst such destruction of species for 65 million years, and one of the most significant extinction events in the history of the earth, according to scientists.

They point to the disappearance  of billions of plants, insects, animals, reptiles and amphibians all over the planet, saying the Sixth Mass Extinction has progressed further than we thought. It’s caused by over-population, loss of habitat, hunting, use of poisons like pesticides, climate change, pollution and in some cases, as in the case of NZ’s Archey’s frog, by disease.

There are so few of our frogs left here that they are number one on the list of endangered species, which is why we are guarding and monitoring and cherishing them. Just as saddening is the knowledge that in the last fifty years tigers, for example, have declined from 50,000 down to three thousand – a thought that fills me with terror at the thought of losing them all soon.

Scientists fear all big cats will be extinct in less than a hundred years, and point to lions as a symbol of what has happened to our world. They remind us that lions used to live and roam all over Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East right up to north-western India, and yet now, there are only small parts of Africa and tiny populations in a few other places.

While hunting and habitat loss is behind the loss of so many creatures like the big cats, over-eating is the problem that most frogs face! In the US alone, three million kgs of frog meat are imported every year. This is roughly 26 million frogs – mostly from India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Germany, France, the Netherlands and Africa are also keen on eating frogs’ legs. Luckily for them, our Archeys are too small to be a tasty morsel for homo sapiens – (if only we were truly homo sapiens).

It’s easy to feel discouraged when facing a global event of such momentous proportions, and one which in the end could mean our mass extinction too. And when it is such an enormous and profound happening, we can only fall back on the only thing we know – love. By loving and reverencing every creature, plant and sentient being we can feel at least that we are doing something positive. Giving in to despair or hopelessness is not the answer. Nor is burying our heads in the sand.

The words of a children’s hymn printed in 1864 which my grandmother taught me, come into my mind.

We are bidden:”… to shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

………..                                           all around
Many kinds of darkness in this world abound:
Sin, and want, and sorrow—we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.”

So yes, I will light my candle in my small corner.

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

I’ve always been keen on cakes that require very little effort, and I’ve used this one several times recently, and it’s never let me down. All you have to do is stir all the ingredients together and bake – no beating, creaming, or separating! The ladies from the Zoo loved it when they came for afternoon tea!

Grease a cake tin and line the base with grease-proof paper. Set the oven to 180 degrees. In a large bowl, tip 100gm of melted butter, a generous 100 gm of brown sugar, three eggs, a 100 gm of self- raising flour, a 100gms of ground almonds, a tsp baking powder, four tablespoons of milk, and a table spoon of honey. Mix them all together thoroughly, tip into the cake tin, and bake for just over 35 minutes  or until a skewer comes out clear.

I made lemon butter icing using the juice and grated peel of a lemon. The cake did n’t last long!

Food for Thought

‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’”

JRR Tolkien This favourite quote seemed like the most appropriate one for this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

28 Comments

Filed under animals/pets, birds, cookery/recipes, environment, philosophy, pollution, sustainability, Uncategorized, wild life