Experience, not things

Christmas has been and gone. The tree is down and the decorations are back in their boxes. It’s a new year already.

My partner had a few days off after New Years Eve, so we took the time to go down to one of my favourite beaches, Aramoana, for a walk.

The day reaffirmed for me that our lives should be spent enjoying experiences, not stuff. We’re here on this earth to love each other and spend time enjoying the natural world.

aramoana beach

Aramoana is a beautiful beach, a short drive away from Dunedin.

We’re not here to fight each other over the next after-Christmas door buster sale!

At Aramoana, we walked along the spit to the very end.

the spit, aramoana, dunedin

View along the spit, Aramoana, Dunedin, New Zealand

There was a family of wild sealions basking in afternoon warmth, barely ten feet from where we stood.

Sealions, Aramoana, Dunedin

Sealions on the spit, Aramoana, Dunedin

About a dozen of them, some resting, barely opening an eye to us.

sealions, aramoana

Relaxed sealions, enjoying the afternoon.

They were obviously really used to seeing humans. But it made me think about how relaxed they all were, compared with how stressed most people are at this time of year!

sealions, aramoana

Up close and personal with beautiful wild animals.

I also thought about how lucky we are to have such beautiful animals here in New Zealand. They’re national treasures. World treasures.


They’re also called “dogs of the sea”. I can see why!

I was there, on a practically empty beach, enjoying this amazing experience, while most people were probably at home watching the telly, unaware of what was right outside their door.

black swans

We also saw black swans and other wild birds.

Maybe it’s time we start treasuring our experiences more, and our stuff a little less, don’t you think?

Happy new year.

First of the spring lambs :)

The first of our Spring lambs has arrived.

It’s a wee blackface girlie and we’ve named her Sonia, after world record powerlifter Sonia Manaena, who lives just down south of us in Invercargill.


I mean, if you’re going to name a lamb, why not name her after an incredible New Zealand athlete!

Anyway, Sonia seems to be doing well, and feeding well, and now we’re wondering when the next lambs will arrive. Usually we get a rush all at once, and certainly one of the other ewes is so fat she’s practically waddling around the property!

Sonia's mum Gabby giving her a kiss...

Sonia’s mum Gabby giving her a kiss…

It’s always lovely when the lambs arrive, but this time it has a hint of sadness about it, because if everything goes well, this will be our last spring at the farm, and my last time we have lambs. I’ll miss it.

Sonia says hello to the other sheep

Sonia says hello to the other sheep

This time next year I don’t know where I’ll be living – it’ll be somewhere in town, but I won’t have lambs, or a farm. It’s what we’re planning, but I’ll miss the joy of Spring.

Of snow, fat sheep, and lambs on the run…

It’s a snowy day outside.

The view from my bedroom...cold and white!

The view from my bedroom this morning…cold and white!

We’re still in the middle of winter, although lambs are starting to appear around the area. We’re waiting on ours still, and the sheep are wider than they are tall, which tells us that it won’t be too long!

The ram we had in was a blackface, and very handsome, so we’re hoping any lambs we get will also be lovely and black-faced (our sheep are bitzers), and that our stock will be improved by the new genetics coming in.

The ram we got in a few months back (named Ramone), and our flock of mixed breed sheep.

The ram we got in a few months back (named Ramone), and our little flock of mixed breed sheep.

I’m looking forward to the lambs coming. There’s nothing as much fun as seeing them jump around on the hillside, playing tag with each other and running around in little gangs. Here’s a great (short) BBC presentation about how lambs behave when they’re a few weeks old and get brave enough to leave their mothers. It’s right on the mark:

I’ll let you all know when our lambs arrive, and there will be lots of pics. In the meanwhile, stay warm, everyone here in frosty New Zealand!

Rainageddon! Car safety for floodwater crossings

Yesterday broke all records for single-day rainfall. It was WET!

So first of all:

    FLOODWATERS 101: What to do when crossing floodwaters in a car

    1. Don’t cross unless you are certain
    a) the water will not submerge your car,
    b) your crossing is not essential, and
    c) the water is not fast moving or rising rapidly.

    Most drownings happen when things get out of control – really fast.

    2. Prepare your car.

    a) Wind down windows (easy escape),
    b) unlock doors (if manual),
    c) turn lights on (visibility in case of rescue), and
    d) unclasp seatbelts (easy escape).
    e) Take off any backpacks or bags, and move them out of the way (back seat or boot). Especially ensure that there are no bag straps or items that may trip or impede your movement within in the car.

    Car lights surprisingly often stay on even when cars are very submerged, and have saved countless lives by enabling rescue teams to find cars in bad conditions and orient themselves.

    Open windows have also enabled many quick escapes (ignore the rain! It WON’T kill you!), and unlocked doors can save precious seconds, while automatic locking doors and seatbelts may seize up in stress conditions and trap you.

    3. Plan an escape route. Prior to crossing, driver organise WHICH direction the car members will move in, should they have to exit the car.

    Point this out to all car members, and ensure everyone knows and is in agreement about WHERE you will go in case you have to make a quick exit.

    4. Explain the ROOF command. If no exit is possible, the car driver will shout “ROOF” and members will climb to the roof of the car, or hold on to the roof above the doors.

    With windows open, many cars have handles just inside the doors (above the windows) which make ideal handles to hold on to in this emergency situation. The sun visors in the front seats are also ideal for holding, and very strong.

    Cars have been known to float for several minutes in flood situations, and this may be your best option, rather than leaving the car.

    5. Know your buddy. Explain the “hold hands and smallest member” safety. Members of the car will hold hands upon exiting. If there are three members, the smallest member in the middle. If four or more, adults allocated children, or stronger members allocated weaker / smaller.

    6. Mobile phone emergency number on speed dial. You should already have this, right?

    Keep your mobile phone in your pocket or readily available, so you can dial for help if you run into problems.

    7. Drive through at medium pace, to the conditions, in low gear. This is pretty straightforward.

Rainageddon, Dunedin-style!

Our previous record for a single day was set in May 2010 with 83.4mm. Yesterday’s fall was 132mm by around 7pm, and I don’t know how much fell overnight, but it was still pouring by midnight, when I finally fell asleep.

This is what my kids’ school looked like, just after lunch when the school closed due to flooding and I collected them:

The playground. There's a sandpit somewhere under that water! :(

The playground. There’s a sandpit somewhere under that water! 😦

The carpark. Photos from the East Taieri School Facebook page.

The carpark. Photos from the East Taieri School Facebook page.

When I picked the kids up in my little car, I got them in then, for the first time in my life and hopefully the last, went through a quick safety drill about What to do when crossing floodwaters in a car, and gave them the drill I listed above.

All of it is pretty straightforward, common-sense stuff. My kids were excited about not wearing their seatbelt, and I was pretty apprehensive as the water came up almost over the bonnet of the car. Luckily we were never in danger, and only had to drive through about 50 metres of water less than a metre deep.

Other cars were not so lucky. This was the state of the main motorway in Dunedin late yesterday afternoon:

The motorway, near Green Island, just outside Dunedin, New Zealand.

The motorway, near Green Island, just outside Dunedin, New Zealand.

Not surprisingly, the school is closed today, as are most of the primary schools in Dunedin. Many houses in low lying areas are dealing with flood damage, and there is raw sewerage floating in some of the streets because sewers have burst. The Dunedin City Council is going to have hell to pay over this, as they’ve been busy wasting money on beautification projects, art galleries, chinese gardens and stadiums for the last few years instead of doing essential maintenance work, is how I see it.

So today, the cleanup begins. People are not happy. But on the bright side, there have been no reports of deaths or injuries. So we should be thankful.

But this is the third “1 in 150 year flood” we’ve had since 2006, at which point I really want to hit climate change skeptics over the head with something heavy. I mean, how much water do we need before they wake up?

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday – Around the local area…

These photos were taken in and around my farm in Mosgiel, just outside Dunedin, New Zealand.

Just down the road a wee bit...the alpaca farm

Just down the road a wee bit…the alpaca farm

Trees along Puddle Alley

Trees along Puddle Alley

Lichen on one of our old fence posts

Lichen on one of our old fence posts

My farm in the evening

My farm in the evening

Sheep moving into the yards for sorting

Sheep moving into the yards for sorting

Sheep sorting time...we're working out who to keep and who to cull

Sheep sorting time…we’re working out who to keep and who to cull

Some of our young lambs playing on the hillside

Some of our young lambs playing on the hillside

Creating our own traditions

Our modern lives often feel disconnected from the past.

Often our families immigrated or moved from their original homes. Or maybe, like me, you’re a third culture kid, raised in several cultures and countries, and not really belonging to any of them. And sometimes as adults we have chosen to move away from where we grew up, for jobs or partners or other reasons.

As a result, we often feel that we don’t have any traditions. So businesses have stepped in, ready to make wealth from our insecurity and loss.

Corporate traditions: rich on dollars, low on meaning

Corporate traditions:

  • They tell us we need to shop and give expensive gifts for Christmas.
  • They tell us we’re “cheap” if we handmake a gift for someone we love, spending hours and giving our time and effort.
  • They promote the idea that Santa gives gifts, the Easter Bunny brings chocolate eggs, and that money has nothing to do with any of it.
  • We’re told we need to buy costly flowers and sweets for Valentine’s Day.
  • They sell us chocolate eggs for Easter.
  • We’re made to feel guilty if we forget Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.
  • Halloween – never popular in Australia or New Zealand – is out of control in the United States as a consumerfest, and now its plastic pumpkins, cheap costumes and cratefuls of sugary junk food are infesting other countries too.

It’s hard to avoid these massed consumer events, unless you belong to a strong subculture that intentionally disregards them (Judaism, Seventh Day Adventists and so on).

No matter how hard you try, you still find yourself caught up in the sales and the planning, the turkey basting and the plastic trees.

Finding a pathway out from the nonsense

I think the key to avoiding all this nonsense – and the insanity that goes with it – is creating our own, strong, family traditions.

I’m not saying that we need to avoid the consumer holidays, but that the more we create our own traditions, the less meaningful the consumer holidays will appear by comparison.

Traditions remind us of who we are, and help keep our relationships strong.

Some of our own family traditions

Putting the Christmas Tree up on December 9th. The reason? My brother’s birthday is the 8th, so the tree went up after his party when we were children.

I’ve kept to this tradition, and so has my brother’s family and my parents. All our trees go up on December 9th. I’ve no doubt my children’s trees, when they have homes of their own, will go up on December 9th!

Having all our meals together at the dining table. I’m continually surprised at the amount of families who don’t do this. I’m even more surprised at the amount of people who don’t even have a dining table these days!

Make meals a time to be together and share news. It’s important. We don’t eat anywhere except at the dining table, and I’m happy about this “tradition”.

Pancakes on Sunday morning. Having pancakes on Sunday mornings is so lovely. We all sleep in a little, then we make a huge batch of pancakes for the kids. The pancakes fill them up right through until dinner.

My boyfriend is now doing the same thing, because it makes so much sense, and his kids love their Sunday morning pancakes too.

Every year, we build lanterns and go to the Dunedin Midwinter Carnival. It’s a lovely thing to do with our kids, and we all enjoy it.

Every year, we make lanterns in the community workshops and participate in the Midwinter Lantern Parade.

Every year, we make lanterns in the community workshops and participate in the Midwinter Lantern Parade.

My children bringing me wildflowers in Spring. Every Spring, my children collect wildflowers from the side of the road on the way home from school and give them to me. This simple gesture of love and thoughtfulness means so much to me.

Painting eggs in Spring. My children and I like to colour eggs in Spring. It’s fun and beautiful. Then we give them as gifts.

Friday night treat night. I buy a chocolate bar for each of my kids on Friday. This is their treat for the week – they don’t get junk or packaged food any other time.

Turning junk food and sweets into special occasion foods helps restrict junk and return it to its proper place as a “sometimes food”.

Friday night board games. We often get together with friends and play board games on Friday nights. It’s a lovely, old fashioned way to catch up.

Our rotational eating pattern. We eat according to a rotational menu, and I guess this is a kind of tradition too. The kids know what to expect each day during the week, and it helps keep things simple and easy.

Putting the tomatoes in with my daughter. Every Spring my daughter helps me put our tomatoes in. I think she might have a vested interest in this tradition!

Keeping chickens. We keep chickens. Always will. Yes, it’s a tradition! 😉

Other great family traditions I know of…

Beach holiday. A family I’m friends with goes off to the beach for the week directly after Christmas, and camps out. The kids look forward to this more than the actual consumer holiday of Christmas. (Remember, Christmas is in summer in New Zealand!)

Helping pack charity hampers at Christmas. Another family I know packs charity hampers at Christmas with a local outreach group. It helps remind them how fortunate they are, and to be thankful.

Fishing in Spring. Another family I know of goes on fishing holidays with their kids every Spring, when the fish start to run. It’s a great way to connect with nature and just be together.

What traditions do you have? Can you think of any traditions you’d like to have?

Beach beauty…

Even on a cold wintry day the beach is beautiful

Even on a cold wintry day the beach is beautiful

Seeing an empty stretch of sand makes me want to run forever

Seeing an empty stretch of sand makes me want to run forever

Looking down between my feet, I see ripples and patterns made by nature

Looking down between my feet, I see ripples and patterns made by nature

The beach is made up of countless tiny shells...

The beach is made up of countless tiny shells…

These photos were taken at Aramoana beach, near Dunedin, New Zealand. I hope you enjoyed them.