This lovely old villa captured my imagination the moment we first walked in the door. Our previous home had been a seaside batch, so this city villa was of a totally different scale and ambience.
I’ll never forget that feeling of walking through the rooms, with a strange dreamlike feeling, bought on not only because the house seemed somehow familiar, but also because it seemed to stretch out and go on and on, one room would have an almost hidden door leading on to yet another room, one large beautiful room with chapel like wooden ceilings would be followed by another even bigger one – and then all the little ones in between.
The house had two big living areas, one a lounge with a massive brick edifice of a fire surround. The other was on the sunny side of the house – a wall knocked out between the kitchen where the coal range once stood, and the adjacent bedroom. The tiny kitchen, complete with ancient tiny instant gas heated hot water, was also familiar, probably because it looked like so many a NZ student flat villa kitchen – tiny with soaring matchlined walls and ceiling, plus of course the instant hot water cylinder.
Of course, we were crazy to take on a place like this – with neither the time nor the money to restore it – but how could we resist? Not with another organic gardening friend living next door – the beginnings of a GE free zone, and a shared natural ecosystem complete with shared beneficial insects, hedgehogs and monarch and admiral butterflies.
Admiral butterflies by the way are native to New Zealand, facing extinction, but loving it in our garden where the stinging nettle is tolerated as is that little weed with the yellow flowers
(Groundsel). We also fortuitously have a koromiko (a hebe), which came with the house when we bought it – admiral butterflies like them very much. They also like the native nettle onga onga – that’s the one we studiously avoid whenever in the bush with the kids.
What we lack in time and money we make up for in imagination – and r
Ben created the holder for this art deco lamp from copper wire. Part of the fun of recycled and second hand is the creative spirit it can inspire.
ecycled resources have long been our staple.
Our imagination, should it manifest in this house, sees wondrous quarter-acre pavlova paradise dreams – except the pavlova is made with organic eggs and sugar, and as just about everyone here finds it too sweet anyway, it might have to be some new and funky dessert which I haven’t yet discovered but will when the dormant organic baking mama in me rises once again.
So far we have been forced to, and been content to, focus on the functionality things.
To begin with, when we moved in there was no hot water for showers, and we had to get the house virtually rewired before we could get the official ok to get the power back on.
I like a little pioneering style adventure. I love the idea of doing it hard in pursuit of something bigger, more globally important. Not the Hollywood type of global significance, but the making the world a better place type of global thinking. I read round the world solo yachtie adventure stories and mountain climbing expedition against all odds books to remind myself that there really is more to life than taking the easy way to your destination. And when the going gets tough, remember - you’re on an adventure.
Taking a holistic approach to life for me means that your not just thinking about organic food for your health, but about the whole web of life and the role organics has in preserving that. And if you are into the “web of life” view of things, then everyday there are all kinds of small things you can do and existing gifts you can appreciate, that are connected to this ideal.
For instance - the little things your children do as they grow, that show their environment and early learning is having some positive results.
My darling 11 year old budding adolescent is still at that age where his innocence outweighs his “sorry mum, got other plans” thing, but is old enough to start manifesting all that early input.
This week it was kicking in with a “kind and compassionate” citizenship award from school, and a bit of a science win with a second place in the school science fair, with his research into household hot water pipes, lagged and unlagged. Between him and his dad they came to the conclusion hot water pipes were best polybutylene and lagged, (rather than copper lagged) for heat retention. I said to them, ‘does that take into account the plastic in our drinking water problem?’ But it was all too much for the immediate concern of an intermediate school science fair. He did go on to get a highly commended at the regional one, so we were all glowing.
I do worry about our drinking water, and about water in general. Having grown up with clean rivers and unchlorinated drinking water, I’ve watched this precious natural resource go to the dogs over the last 25 years.
More recently, we lived in a village that is one of the few left with access to untreated artesian water straight from the tap. Not only that but, Christchurch, the city of 400,000 close by, also has the benefit of this wondrous natural resource.
Now we are in a middlesize town with water drawn from rivers, and it is of course chlorinated. When we first shifted here, I could taste the chlorination down to the day it was put in the system. Sunday/Monday. Round about there. Ben tells me that we will have to renovate the whole kitchen to put in our water filter (which has sat unused after the initial basic installation didn’t work). No it can’t be done, is an oft-heard statement from Ben which I continually prove him wrong on, but he is a busy man, so in the meantime I wait patiently. And amazingly, I’ve become used to the taste of the chlorinated water. You can get used to almost anything.
The Christchurch water tastes sweet. If you are a connoisseur of water, you will definitely taste the difference.
I worry that the artesian water supplying Christchurch could be destroyed without a backward glance. Sadly, it seems that could be on the cards
In New Zealand what we have is a burgeoning dairy industry with such exciting payouts that any struggling farmer is attracted.
The problem, in a nutshell, is that if you can’t naturally farm dairy cows on an arid plain suited to grains, then you have to irrigate. If you have to draw water on that scale, then you are putting serious pressure on the water system. Not only that, but there is the pollution from run-off of dairy effluent.
Then you lose something indescribably precious of benefit to a large number of people – a source of sweet tasting pure unadulterated water. If you don’t know what sweet tasting water tastes like then you are missing a piece of heaven. You can drink dead water. You can survive on it. Let’s face it we are all in the biz of surviving here. But wouldn’t you rather it was perfect, great, heavenly, actually good for you?
Toward the modern eco kitchen
We made a great eco step forward this week when our 30 year old dunga of a fridge finally gave up the ghost, giving us the perfect excuse to go and buy a new eco fridge. To begin with we thought we’d go top of the NZ eco range, but when the opportunity came to go super duper eco, as in a European fridge that costs five cents a day to run, and lasts twice as long as anything we can buy here, then we decided we had to take it. We imagine being 90 and still hugging our eco fridge – it’s a pretty classic design.
Footnote: Bottled water being sourced from Banks Peninsula (Christchurch) and marketed as volcanic artesian spring water is listed on the 'water menu' at Claridges in London for $NZ55 for 420 mils. Click here for more info.