Monthly Archives: September 2009

Garden update version…3? 3.5?

Anyhow, been busy not updating. I had 2 interviews within a week, turned one of them down in anticipation of getting the other one, which worked so, good on me. Turned down another position I was also being offered. Now I just need to wait for my job paperwork to worm through bureaucracy and such. So in the meantime, business as usual.

i.e. more nothing.

My plants are getting pretty decent sized. I worry a bit about them not getting enough light. The tomatoes and eggplants especially are still fairly small. However, squashy plants, which are growing like weeds, are ready to start living outside. So I have decreed!

Ahem.

Anyhow, my bed has been prepared for weeks now. It must be over 2 months since I planted the seeds and cleaned out the bed.

I have a little hand cultivator which is good for loosening and inadvertant worm chopping. With that I dug a little and put my little plants in.

In all the below cases I left the another set inside in case these die horribly. Hopefully I will be encouraged after a week and more can go out eh?

Shown in the picture below:

3 buttercup pumpkin plants (upper RH corner) that had grown in one newspaper pot.

3 Black Beauty Zucchini (the greeny ones) in the Middle RH side (3 separate pots).

3 Spaghetti squash on bottom RH side

2 Golden Zucchini in the staggered center row.

I know these guys are probably too close together, but I fully expect some deaths so I’ll adjust based on that.

DSCN0370

What a remarkably bad picture…

Anyhow, I’m sure it’s not improved by the bird netting over the top of it. This is mainly to keep the neighborhood cats out (success!) and our dogs( not so great).

Here is what is still inside:

DSCN0371

A few squashies of various types and the tomatoes and eggplants.

More later if the outside things survive!


After a year…

So we’ve been here a year now. Short version: We like it fine, we’ll be staying.

Longer version:

All still going well and the longer we are here the more we find it suits us and we like it. If money was no object here is where we’d be (though more rural and with land and livestock), so we are pleased about that.

One of my main problems is that I have had trouble finding work. It is partly economy and partly the lack of opportunities in this area for my qualification. I think I may be competing with local graduates for jobs in addition to lacking NZ experience. I regularly see plenty of jobs I could do advertised up in Hamilton and Palmerston North, and even Auckland/Wellington, but we like it here and really my earning potential is fairly low, topping out below 45k. I’m sure I’d be started lower than that. Considering my max is less than Glenn would make on a starting salary, relocating just for my work, especially when we like where we are at, would be silly. (Glenn doesn’t think so, but he wants to stay home and put me to work…not sure that’s ever going to be financially reasonable…)

Really I’ve only seen (and applied for) 10-15 jobs in the past year that I could do (and not hate). I got exactly two in-person interviews out of all that (though I had gotten two further screening call backs, one that ended in denial, the other I’m still waiting on). I found that kind of surprising as I have both specialized and broad experience and some fairly prestigious publications (to those that like that sort of thing, I’m indifferent). For one job I was really surprised by that point to even get an interview, and then the job description in person didn’t really match up with what they said on paper (or I wouldn’t have applied), and I was turned down anyhow.  For the two I’m waiting on (two in a week, maybe I’ll get lucky?), well they were last week, so we will see. I’m not that keen on one of them, but the other one seems a good opportunity. I’ve sort of made up my mind to go back to school, but am still looking for work until my application is processed as I don’t know if I like how a further qualification would change my employment prospects. I am really irritated that further schooling would ‘unsuit’ me for doing lab work. The professor I’ve been speaking with doesn’t really want me to start until Feb or July of next year anyhow. Really I have very mixed feelings about it, though it probably will help me in that gaining NZ experience and making contacts is going to be helpful. Really the hardest part is feeling so useless and unwanted. Jobs I know I could do I don’t even get call backs for. It makes me wonder what is out there in regards to competition and what I am doing wrong in advertising myself.

More or less I’m still going stir crazy. I did get myself a sewing machine and found things to do around the house, but I haven’t made many outside contacts and need something mentally stimulating. I considered volunteering (if anywhere would have me), though in the end I was afraid I’d be more picky with that than with a job. It’s certainly an odd experience as for one of the first times since I’ve been on the employment market I don’t desperately need a job for anything other than me wanting something mentally engaging.  Enough about me being stupid though, and more about our life here.

We are ok financially, but if we want to have a house built at some point I need to have an income to save. Glenn’s current income is enough for living and small saving (We save 13+% of his after tax income per week) with some left over (took me a good 5-6 months to get our budget under control) including take out/night out once or twice a month, and buying toys or video games as well. It’s not likely to be enough for saving a down payment. Saving money in a monthly budget here is subtly different than it was for us in the US. It took some adjustment but I’m happy with our spending. Of course I am strange and cook nearly everything from scratch, make sewing patterns from thrift store clothes and shop secondhand… It’s entirely possible I was born in the wrong era. In that vein, since I am able to cook and/or sew/knit do some other kind of useful craft, I feel better equipped for life here. Not that one has to, but being slightly crafty makes some things easier IMO. ( that’s sort of what this blog is about)

I did that to some extent in the US, but one gets more benefit from doing it here IMO. In the US, where you have the ( somewhat) hidden benefits of cheap migrant/overseas labor in comparison to the dollar, factory farming and big box stores… there it’s more of a lifestyle choice. Food was a tricky one to get under control but I’ve got it to the point we spend under $250/month (yes month—including dog food) and the main secret is buy on sale, in season, in bulk, and have an extra freezer. I’ve already started my garden plants (and am being very careful with them as I intend for them to provide a large portion of the next year’s food) and will probably replace our aging fridge/freezer with a bigger freezer to accommodate more food storage.

The being able to get stuff year round at low cost that was available in the US (and not so much here) hasn’t really been an adjustment for us, but I can really see how it could be difficult for others. Planning ahead is essential and certainly takes a mental shift if you aren’t used to it.

Our strategy of living below our means (when we make more we think about how much more we can save rather than spend, for instance a second income would almost totally go into savings ) and not having a lifestyle to change, but rather one to adopt, upon coming here I think has REALLY helped.  In addition, being used to living in a more agriculturally oriented society has helped us adjust.

It would be nice to be able to live on one income long-term (and we could as we do/did for most of this year at a lower rate of pay than Glenn will getting in the future, while increasing savings) but having brought no equity we would be renting for many more years than I think we want to. (Plus that whole me going insane from boredom thing…) We honestly feel like we are doing better here than we were in the US. I don’t think that would be a common sentiment though, just something our circumstances have led us to. In many ways it would have been a harder adjustment to move across the US than it was for us to move here.

I do have the occasional moment of-we did what now?!, but have no urge to go back really. In all probability we would have at the very least had to move across the country for work, if not worse, if we had stayed in the US.  I have had a few pangs (mainly with job hunting…I’m sure there were more?) of being frustrated by differences, but they are very momentary.

We certainly feel like we have more of a future here than in the US; that our lives are more under our control.  That was certainly one of the goals with the move. We are also happy to get away from the Americanism as religion and chain stores being the only unifying National culture. There is tons more we are happy about but I could go on and on and on…

A few minor things still drive us nuts, for instance the prevalence of separate hot/cold taps, but that’s really house dependent I think.  The damp of the houses (and in general) bothers Glenn more than I, but then I think the dampness here is about on par with the California Bay area where I grew up. Glenn has never lived at sea level. I’m used to that ‘wear a lot of layers and have the cold go through all of them’ thing. I don’t think I’ll EVER get used to crossing the street.:D Stuff drives us nuts but none of it is anything we would consider leaving over, nor even enough to make us rethink the move. The more we are here, the better we like it and the happier we are about the move.

We started out in Linwood (a not-so-great part of town), and after 5 months moved to Riccarton (better, mainly full of students and mid income people). The first house was over 100 years old and this one (which we like) is about 50. (Renting with dogs is an adventure!) I think it is ex-state housing, but it suits us for now, though hopefully in another year or so we will need something larger. I’m really looking forward to some Spring cleaning to get ALL the mold out of the house (at least until next winter). I notice the sun a lot more because it has a much larger role in my daily comfort.

It took (is taking?) a while to find what stores have what and where I like to get the groceries and necessities but I think I have this area figured out. If we went to another city (and even to some extent across town) we’d have to adjust again, so not looking forward to that. I like my local  markets. I also really like being able to walk to all of them.

The small list of things we miss is fairly random. I certainly miss crows and ravens as well as ubiquitous frogs and other fly eating animals (flies…SUCK). There is heaps less biodiversity here than where we came from, so that is a bit jarring at times. I’ve spent some time puzzling over the ecosystem niches here, things like carrion eaters and insectivores, though I think I have it somewhat figured out now. I’m a nerd!  We miss snakes, both garden and pet (we had an 8+ ft boa before we got our little dog), and would like to get a tortoise (not a turtle) some day—which may prove difficult, as they are legal (according to NZ herpetological society) but not common! Of course there is the odd food/other item where the local equivalent just isn’t the same. As I do most of the cooking, and ingredients are generally superior in taste, this is less of an issue and mainly concentrated on junk foods. :p Adjustment is ongoing.

We have made some social contacts, Glenn via work, and me…through his workmates wives (seems really odd to me, though I know it isn’t!), and potentially, for me, hopefully through University. This hasn’t bothered us much as neither of us is particularly friendly. I’m certainly nice (sometimes) and have a desire to be helpful (sometimes), but it doesn’t often occur to me to be outgoing or friendly.  I also find that I often don’t get along with people who share my interests, so I can’t use that to meet people. That’s too strong a term really. Maybe… don’t prefer rather than don’t get along with. I find myself currently a bit hampered by not having a house large enough to have activities at, so we can’t reciprocate invitations. Something that has to go in the ‘someday’ bin.

I certainly feel that any lack of friends I have here is my fault. I don’t think just social Brownian motion is enough for most people to form friendships when you are older. It’s rarely ever been enough for me at least. I think it takes some amount of effort, which people may forget when they relocate. Just MO though. Also I’m kind of anti social, and so is Glenn. We were both only children for the first part of our lives and both moved and changed schools a lot, so are a bit more self sufficient as a result.

I also feel that Kiwis are generally more superficially friendly, but after the initial friendliness you get the same variability of follow-up friendliness one would expect in a home culture.

Other thoughts on NZ culture?

Well, I think it’s important to be able to think critically and objectively about your ‘home’ culture and surrounds if you want to be able to think critically and objectively about another one.  I maintain that the US has a lot of micro-cultures, and that nationwide generalizations and statistics fail if you get much beyond chain restaurants and stores. Some other Americans I’ve spoken to often don’t see these differences which I find baffling, but whatever. Perhaps it comes from living all over the US in a variety of economic situations.

I don’t think Kiwis know what they like. Or if they do they are very slow to capitalize on it compared to the US. For example, breakfast restaurants. There is one around here, always packed, but it’s the only one I’ve seen that isn’t a café that happens to also do breakfast. People do tend to frequent smaller cafes but it really seems like another breakfast style restaurant (or 3) would not go amiss. A breakfast buffet would make a killing here. I imagine that big box stores aren’t too far off in NZ’s future. In Christchurch at least the past time seems to be shopping. Another example would be the housing. Kiwi’s know they don’t like it but there is less effort to do something about it. It seems odd to me for a society that is otherwise very DIY friendly.

That’s all for now!


Part of this very strange breakfast…

I woke up early and had a craving for kumara. It’s a type of sweet potato…thing that the Maori brought with them when they came here.

The easiest way to make it for breakfast was as some type of fried thing, so I went for pseudo-fries.

DSCN0353

I chopped it up lengthwise into sticks.

I heated olive oil in the pan and dropped the sticks in

DSCN0354

And browned them

DSCN0355

And made them part of my partially strange breakfast.

DSCN0356

Only partially strange though. Also shown, toad in the hole, with sardines in mustard (yum vitamin D). I eat that every day more or less, though usually with a bit of fruit and or yogurt, and a bit of chicken sausage (which is left over from last night’s dinner).

A lot greasier than what I usually have, but it’s mainly olive oil, so it’s all good.

I still think I want a piece of fruit though…


MRI chicken

This category was getting lonely, which is funny as I make a lot of my food in the fry pan. Most of it is of the mix rice and onion and meat and eat variety though, so I never take pictures of it.

The name is because I bought this chicken pack from the butcher…and I’ve never seen chicken sliced this way before. Looks like MRI images. Must have been training day at the butcher. “And this is how you use the slicer….”

DSCN0326

Anyhow, I took two of the…slices, an onion chopped smallish, rosemary (fresh), basil (frozen leaves), garlic (powder), fennel (seeds), salt and fresh cracked pepper and sauteed in a pan with water until the chicken was cooked. I then took out the slices, deboned them and added the meat back to the onion-herb-meat stock.

I added chopped broccoli (raw but frozen) and a little milk and turned the heat down (well off, that burner only goes to high no matter the setting).

DSCN0327

(My stove is dirty!)

I boiled up some pasta (cheapo spaghetti! Use whatever you like, or rice, potatoes etc. It’s all about the topping).

DSCN0329

And after draining, mixed it in.

I turned the heat back on at this point, just for a bit to make sure the broccoli is cooked.

DSCN0330

You could add flour to thicken the sauce before this point, but I don’t like to. I just tossed it a bit to get the noodles coated and served into bowls.

DSCN0331

Nom.


Garden mini update

Just a bit of progress really. I am finally finally seeing Dok eggplant sprouts come up (can’t see them in the picture), in addition to the regular eggplants (somewhere in the middle) that started coming up last week. I’m waiting for the cotyledon to not be the main leaf before I put these guys outside. We’ve had an overnight frost or two and it’s been at least um..a month since I planted these guys. Another 2 weeks at the minimum before they go outside.

DSCN0319

Spaghetti squash, zucchini and assorted tomatoes are mainly what is visible.

And outside we have lovely little spinaches

DSCN0320

Also shown cilantro (aka coriander here) and not shown, baby green onions. I’m restarting parsley, basil and serrano peppers as I’m not seeing much out of them.