In September I met Alec Lawless - a highly successful artisan perfumer from the UK who uses almost all natural botanicals in his fragrances. He was teaching an artisan perfumery workshop in Wellington. (A first for NZ as far as I know!)
He appeared on the Good Morning Show while he was here - you might have caught it.
His workshop was a huge success, so he's back to do just one more in early January.
Also, I gave a talk yesterday morning on foraging to the Kapiti Herb Society. They are an amazing, friendly, and LARGE group! I really enjoyed talking to and with them, and I think it went well - apart from the bits where I was overcome with klutziness and did things like walk in front of the speaker with the microphone (twice), making everything screech and deafening everyone (twice).
The different local herb societies around the country are branches of the national Herb Federation - which incidentally has a great website. Of particular interest are their Data Sheets which include some brilliant information on a number of foraged herbs.
As the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquake unfolds, it's amazing to see how having a solid community currency system already in place is helping some people cope, and get the help they need rapidly.
Canterbury's Lyttelton has a particular type of community currency system called a Time Bank - where hours of your time are the currency, rather than any form of 'dollar'.
Through a Time Bank, members generally trade services rather than goods, and everyone's services and skills are valued equally. Spending an hour on someone else buys you an hour of any other person's time.
The Lyttelton Time Bank has a fantastic website here- and this the media release they have just put out about their role in the earthquake relief efforts:
From Project Lyttelton (9 September):
Lyttelton has something to share with New Zealand.
No, we don’t wish a 7.1 earthquake on to the rest of New Zealand, nor an ongoing swarm of nerve stretching aftermath earthquakes.
We can share some of the stories that are unfolding. And the most telling story is about ‘the how’ we are dealing with the situation.
Lyttelton has a TimeBank. Time Banks facilitate the sharing of skills within a community. Every task undertaken is measured not by a dollar value but by the time it takes to do the job. Everyone’s time is equal. Everyone is valued.
With no real Civil Defence presence in Lyttelton, the local volunteer fire brigade and the Health Centre turned to the TimeBank.
Quickly and efficiently all TimeBank members (10% of the local population) were notified, tasks identified, teams organized.
A central drop in point at the Information Centre was established. People could check in and have a chat over a cuppa. Ease the tension of waiting for the unknown.
And the good thing, once the dust has settled and life returns to a more normal pattern, the camaraderie, the sense of connection, the care and love for one another within the community won’t disappear. This will remain even when the immediate needs created by the earthquake subside. The TimeBank will continue to function, to build on these human connections, to continue to create an alive, vibrant community.
Whenever I ponder the economic crisis (recession/coming financial apocalypse/whatever you want to call it) I come back again and again to the usefulness of local currencies and alternative forms of trading - vital tools that could help enable ordinary people like me to cope.
Just lately I've started thinking about it all a lot more, and I thought I'd blog a semi-regular diary about it. I'm calling it the 'Healthy Money Diary', after a book I read the summer before last - Healthy Money, Healthy Planet by Deirdre Kent.
(Highly recommend! A fantastic, clear explanation of the global financial system and its failings ... plus a detailed look at alternative forms of trading within communities).
I really feel right now that I want to increase my involvement with alternative forms of trading and currency.
The flames of my interest were fanned a few weeks ago when I got to meet Helen Dew at a Wairarapa craft fair. If you don't know Helen, she is a highly respected and long-time advocate of community currencies, and a board member of the Living Economies Educational Trust. My part in the conversation with her consisted mostly of a lot of vigorous head nodding.
I sat on my thoughts for a bit. Then over the past week I had a couple of other fortuitous meetings:
* I discovered that an anonymous crafter whose blog I had just started reading (thinking this person has some extremely interesting things to say) is actually someone I slightly know in real life! I was thrilled.
I have been especially thinking about this post of hers about a wool mill closure in the South Island, and the ensuing comments. It's the kind of thing that I can foresee happening increasingly often over the next few years. I don't know the answers, but I feel sure they rest at least partly with finding new ways to trade and support local small business.
* Then on the weekend I had the opportunity to meet and chat in real life with Isa - The Nourishing Revolution blogger, which was lovely. We talked about the state of the world, as you do, and yes she is just as full of insights and ideas as you would expect from her blog! I felt galvanised to act after talking with her. (And it wasn't just the two coffees).
So here I am, inspired by the things other people say, and their passion and enthusiasm, determined to try and find different ways in my own life to trade. I don't exactly know what I'm going to do next, but I'll just work away at it, and blog my thoughts as I go (maybe once a week or so).
I've just taken the leap into selling handmade craft supplies. So far I've got a very small range of handspun yarn and beads available - all scented one way or another with beautiful quality essential oils, absolutes, and extracts. (All natural botanicals - no synthetic fragrances).
I sold my first skein of wool and packet of beads at a small craft fair in the Wairarapa on the weekend, and other items are available at my new blog - Argot Bazaar...
I'm in the throes of setting up a shop on Felt.
What I hope for is to have lots of fun experimenting with and learning new things in spinning and bead-making and fragrance - and to produce some appealing raw materials that others will see potential in for their own creations - and for it all to somewhat pay its way! (Well, okay, maybe the paying its own way bit is kinda over optimistic ...) I'll be adding new things to the site often.
Thanks for the entries! I wanted to send everyone some. But winners drawn with closed eyes and lots of swirling round of the paper are - Nikki and Gillybean! Could you drop me a line with your addresses? My email is johanna dot knox @ gmail.com
The newest issue of Good Magazine is out - and includes an article I wrote about the growing natural perfumery movement.
It was a lot of fun writing this article and talking to all the perfumers from around the world. I could only include a fraction of the fascinating stuff they told me, so over the next little while I'll feature longer interviews with some of them on this blog, like Ambrosia Jones and Charna Ethier.
I never normally win a thing in giveaways and draws - but by some amazing luck I managed to score an incredible spray bottle of scent by California Perfumer JoAnne Bassett.
It's completely delicious, and since I have so much, I'd love to decant a couple of 1.5 ml samples and give them away.
The perfume is called 'Sensual Embrace' - you can see it and read about it here. It's made entirely from natural ingredients - a rare thing in perfume these days! (Although a small but growing number of artisan perfumers are doing it.) JoAnne created this perfume as part of The Mystery of Musk Project recently run by the US-based Natural Perfumers Guild.
To enter, just add a comment to this post, and I'll put all commenters in a draw, which my lovely assistant (AKA my daughter) will help with.
I have some other small samples of JoAnne Bassett's perfumes as well, though I'm keeping those to myself! She is amazing. (I read somewhere that one of her perfumes blends 39 natural ingredients. It seems hard to me to blend three without it smelling like a dog's breakfast.)
If you're interested in finding out more about natural perfumery, I have a small article on it it coming out (I think) in the August/September Good magazine. I'll also blog about it some more.
The scented species of these plants are especially amazing. There's a huge 'rose geranium' bush down the road from me, whose leaves I've been tincturing for their fragrance; and I've just bought some apple-scented geraniums.
I mean pelargoniums.
I've written more about this group of plants at Wild Picnic.
No time to post screeds at the moment, but I thought over the next few weeks I would post a few bits and pieces about my current journey into the addictive world of smelly stuff.
If anyone is interested, there's a rare opportunity to do an intensive artisan perfumery course in Wellington in early September - using natural botanical ingredients. The teacher is Alec Lawless, an artisan perfumer from the UK. To my knowledge - this is the first time a course like this has been held in New Zealand.
I can't resist. My mum and my sister have been doing some cool things - and I really want to link to them.
My sister and her partner are building a gorgeous eco-house in a suburb near us, and my sister has just a started a series of blogposts that explain some of the issues around the build and the choices they've made. Here's her first post on that - exploring timber treatments. I for one am a lot more enlightened about the ins and outs of treated wood now!
Meanwhile my mother is marketing her book and website about New Zealand spinning wheels, and was interviewed about it by Granny at http://www.grannygcrafts.com/ You can listen to the podcast there, or visit my mum's website.
Speaking of the passions and pastimes that drive us, I have been bursting to write a series of posts about natural fragrance ... I hope to do it soon!
It's being sold as young adult fiction, but there's no reason why this stunning dystopian novel can't be devoured also by - er - old adults.
I've just started doing children's and YA book reviews every 8 weeks for Your Weekend in the DomPost - yippee. And one of the many pleasures so far has been reading this book by Wellington author Mandy Hager (yep, sister of Nicky Hager). It's the sequel to her award winning The Crossing - although you don't necessarily need to read them in order.
Publishers and booksellers are saying that in these globally worrying times they're doing a roaring trade in dystopian fiction. I have this horrible feeling that we'll see a slew of mediocre dystopias hitting the market to cynically capitalise on this trend.
But perhaps it's all right as long as there is also still beautiful, thought-provoking and moving work around like Hager's!
I won't say any more until the next reviews are out.
This whole giveaway thing has been very exciting and a lot of fun. I haven't won anything, but it's been nice to see some people I know or know of winning stuff! And of course I'm thrilled to bits with all the comments here, and very happy to announce yarn winners!
Thank you so much to everyone who entered, and to SewMamaSew for running it.
My daughter and I printed the comments out, cut them up, and put them in her accordion case. She scrummaged them around and then drew them ...
No 2. Stripy and Bouncy
Penelope at Many sudden enthusiasms
(Penelope - you actually won twice - we drew out both your comments! I'll send a bonus!!!)
No 3. Coloured Wool Overdyed
Kelly at Reclaiming Me
(Kelly - I know you don't knit and were going to give the wool away if you won! I hope you can swap it for something good, and I'll put in a small extra thing too.)
No 4. Purply Blue with Bits
Ruby Star at How Bizarre Ruby Star
(It's been nice to find Ruby's blog - and if you read it you will see she has been on a bit of a winning streak lately!!!)
I'll be emailing you guys for postal addresses soon!
I'm also very happy to have got a couple of great swap offers from Cally and Sharon. Definitely would love to take you both up on them. And Ruth - I'd be a starter for lemon balm ...
Okay, here goes with the SewMamaSew Giveaway. Above are the yarns I'm giving away, all made with a new spinner's ... er, exuberance!
Below - a closer look at each of them and a few details
But first how to enter: Just leave a comment here and say which yarns would be your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices, and tell me how to contact you. If you prefer, you can send your contact details to me at my email - johanna dot knox at gmail.com.
To have a 2nd entry, add that you'd like to hear if and when I get a little shop up and running selling odd bits and pieces. I promise that if this happens, it will just be a one-off email to let you know the details. I won't send you any more spam than that single email.
My daughter will draw the names of the winners randomly out of a hat.
For the moment I'll only post within New Zealand or to Australia.
1. Deeply Green
This is approximately 60 metres or slightly over - spun two ply, mainly from dyed Romney, with some other green things thrown in - like sparkly Angelina.
2. Stripy and Bouncy
Around 75 metres here - in one larger skein and one smaller one. This is white wool plied with blue and pink wool and the odd sparkle of Angelina. I can't remember what breed the white is - but it's extremely bouncy! Most of the thicks and thins were deliberate but I will confess that sometimes the bounce got away from me, and I got some slightly-thicker-than-intendeds. But I still like it.
3. Coloured Wool Overdyed
Two skeins - all up around 270 metres. This was coloured Romney, which I spun and then cold water dyed with some red and a little green. Each skein is about half red and half green. The red is nice, but the green is very faint over the brown of the wool. This photo makes it look a bit shiny, which it isn't really.
4. Purply Blue with Bits
Just 28 metres here, but I especially like this one. It's quite a dark dyed wool, spun with some extra shiny things thrown in.
Have fun with the giveaway! On the left, I've linked to some other NZers doing the Giveaway, and you can find more from all round the world at SewMamaSew.
Dimly I had been thinking, what am I going to do with all this newly spun yarn? I don't knit or crochet. I just love spinning, and I'm building up great purposeless yarn mounds in a corner of the living room.
Then on Friday I read about the SewMamaSew May Giveaway. So I'm going to participate and give away two or three skeins. If you come back tomorrow or the next day, they'll be up. (The US 17 May being the NZ 18 May...)
It's kinda nerve-wracking. What if no one wants them? What if I can't even give them away? Well, I guess at least I will have tried to find a good home for them.
I've been searching around on the internet to find other New Zealanders who are joining the May Giveaway. There's Highway Cottage Weblog. And I'd love to hear of any others if you know of them (or are them).
[Update 9.40 am Monday: Here is another NZer doing it - MakeItGiveIt - a really nice idea for a blog too.
My mother-in-law has a huge and prolific fig tree in her backyard, and a couple of weeks ago, she kindly suggested that I come and gather some before the birds got them, and see what I could do with them.
The tree is tall and a lot of the good fruit is at the top, so we tried various methods to get to the bounty, including standing on stools, bending branches towards us with broomsticks, and sending up small children. Eventually we got about a third of the fruits we coveted - about 2 kg of ripe figs, and 1.5 kg of green ones.
On the first day ...
For the first day I got no bites - except for a woman in Walthamstow, England who had logged into the Community Exchange System, and, without realising, hit a button that allowed her to see people's offerings from all over the world instead of just locally.
She asked if I would be willing to drop the figs off to her, as she had just broken her arm, and she invited me to a gardening group at the house of some people called Rob and Liz in Walthamstow village ... Well, frankly I would have LOVED to, but it was just a little too far to travel ...
But the next day ...
Hurray! I got another offer from the Community Exchange System (CES) - and this time it was from Wellington, NZ - someone wanting all the green figs. I looked up this woman's CES profile (hi Lillian!) and found that by happy chance one of her own offerings was clothing repairs.
Of course, when you use the CES, there's no need to do a direct swap. You sell your offerings to anyone on the system using whatever the unit of currency is in your area (in Wellington it's WITS), and you buy from anyone you like using the same currency. It's just like money. (And 1 WIT = 1 dollar.)
However, it seemed convenient that Lillian was offering clothing repairs when I had two skirts in desperate need of work. (I am a reluctant and very bad sewer.) For one thing, I could drop my skirts to her at the same time as the figs.
So that's what we did. I earned 10 WITS by selling her the figs, and I paid her 15 WITS for my skirt repairs, which I am very happy with.
Balancing the community exchange books
I am now in the red on the Community Exchange system, but that's okay.
Generally people in the system are encouraged to stay within 100 currency units of zero. That is, you can be up to 100 WITS in credit, or up to 100 WITS in debt, and there is no problem. Overall everything still stays in balance within the system, and it allows everyone involved some leeway to buy and sell at the times that work for them.
I'm quite excited about the possibilities of the WITS system in Wellington, and I hope it grows. The bigger it gets, and the more people become involved, the better and more useful it will be for everyone.
Back to the figs
I still had the ripe ones left, and they were getting riper and riper. I had no more offers from anywhere, so I decided to cook them myself. I made fig ice-cream, which was delicious!
If you've never had fig icecream, I can only say that in my opinion figs are one of the loveliest fruits for making frozen desserts from - with an incredible creamy mouthfeel.
But I digress.
Wouldn't you know it, just after I had used all the figs I got TWO offers on them from the MyGarden Trader - offering variously to exchange cash, home-made preserves, freerange eggs, and home-harvested honey.
I've corresponded with one of the people who made an offer, and he is interested in more figs if I manage to get out to my mother-in-law's to pick them. So there are some possibilities there ...
And what of Oooby?
I know it sounds like, of the three systems I tried, the Oooby Wellington group was no help in my fig swap, but in fact it was, because I think it was the announcement I made there which sent Lillian over to the Community Exchange System to buy her figs using WITS.
So all in all, I would say all these trading systems are working nicely, and may they all continue to flourish and grow!
I'm going to leave this topic alone for a while after this. But I wanted to post one more time on it and link to transcripts of talks by two brilliant women - one Maori, one Pakeha - both blunt, provocative, and cautiously optimistic.
Each talks about the ongoing problems inherent in this country's race relations, and then proposes the beginnings of a way forward.
Madz pointed out in comments on the last post that the settler government in the 19th century used legislation, backed up by military force, to take land from Maori. Important point!
So I wanted to write a bit more about that - because it's one way to see the colonisation of this country as part of a bigger picture that continues today - and affects everyone in different ways. (Including the Otaki Women's Community Club).
Why talk about it?
Sometimes in conversations I had while working on the Taranaki War exhibition, I heard people say words to the effect that as Maori their issue was - at its heart - not with individual Pakeha but with the juggernaut that is the Western system and way of government.
Another thing that was brought up often was the usefulness of finding common ground between Maori and Pakeha to help promote conversation and the understanding.
Well, I reckon that this idea of battling with legislative authority is one way of finding some common ground.
Back to the nineteenth century ...
So the British moved into this land that was governed by Maori law and custom. Once here, they set up their own authorities and wrote legislation (both here and in Britain) giving themselves their own permission to - bit by bit - take control of this land.
Perhaps the most infamous duo of laws is the 1863 Suppression of Rebellion Act and the 1863 NZ Settlement Act.
In combination, these laws assumed that Maori defending their land from illegal sales and military occupation were ‘in rebellion’ and could be punished - and that the punishment would be 'confiscation' (i.e. seizure) of their land.
Over a million acres of land were seized from Taranaki region Maori in this way, and a lot more around other parts of the country - although I don't know figures.
Law upon law
Over the decades the government put a further cocktail of laws into place that ensured Maori were pushed off and had no access to the vast majority of their own land. There are way too many to detail here. Maybe I'll list some in another post.
I'll just add that when bits of law didn't work with the government's goals, it either -
a) ignored them (e.g. from what I understand, the 1852 NZ Constitution Act says that some parts of New Zealand would remain ’Maori districts’, continuing to operate under Maori law and custom. This didn't happen.)
b) wrote new laws to close the loopholes. (E.g. the 1894 Native Land (Validation of Titles) Act Amendment Act simply and sweepingly declared many previous illegal purchases of Māori land to be legal. It's been nicknamed the ‘1894 Validation of Invalid Land Sales Act’!)
Government and business
Western governments have a long history of being entwined in myriad ways with powerful business interests, and certainly this was happening during the New Zealand colonisation period.
British land dealers and others were keen to get their hands on New Zealand land and resources, and were pressuring the government to ensure they could. (It worked.)
So this is where the common ground comes in.
I suspect that most people in New Zealand have, or will, at least once or twice in their life feel that their independence, self-reliance, and/or wellbeing is being thwarted by a law or regulation that seems to operate in favour of larger businesses/operators and discriminate against individuals, communities, or small businesses who are hurting no one, but just trying to get by or do their own thing.
It's easy to feel that when you are hit with some kind of restriction like this, which seems to make no good sense, that it's an anomaly.
But there are people in New Zealand (and elsewhere) constantly bumping up against these kinds of crazy rules in many spheres - health, education, art, economy, and more. You don't always think about these rules too much until you actually come up against them, but they're a systemic problem.
And I think it is a big part of what colonisation was and is (with colonisation of course being on a vastly larger scale ...)
Trying to sum up ...
Legislation has always been a vital implement in the government/big-business toolbox. And it's this government/large-business pairing that colonised New Zealand and continues to strike at ordinary people's self-reliance in many ways both big and small.
I'm not for a minute saying that all individuals enforcing such legislation are thinking, 'Harrharr! I'm a tool of the state and I'm going to crush these pesky independents!!' (Although some of them might be ... who knows?)
I'm just saying that the western government system is and has always been very well set up to make sure large business interests are protected in an ongoing way, and the less powerful may get forced out, or tossed aside along the way.
Colonisation was/is a very extreme, far-reaching and horrific case of that. And now the process goes on, with most of us subject to it one small way or another. (I would argue that the economic crisis/recession has been another very large example of it .... but that's definitely another post ...)
Right, family wants me off the computer, so I guess that's the end of my rant!
It's in the news - NZ is signing up to it at last. It will be interesting to see what the ramifications are. You can read it online here.
Sandra has encouraged me to give my thoughts on the big picture relationship between industrialisation/capitalism and colonisation, and I feel a bit daunted, but the starting point is: Everything the majority of people who live here today take for granted is built on the colonisation and dispossession of the first people here.
As Pakeha we only live here today, and live the lifestyles we do, because our forebears flooded into the country and took it over, using military might and, above all, sheer force of numbers to push the existing people here off their land.
Then lots of our forbears got richer than they ever could have done back in their own countries. They got rich because they now had plenty of cheap land to use that they had pushed other people off.
And if we feel that was all in the past (all of 150 years ago or so), we could remind ourselves that lots of us are still prospering, relatively speaking, living on that land that was taken.
At the same time, many of those who were alienated from their land have not been prospering - partly because without land they didn't have the means. Their community economies as well as their self-reliance were taken.
I suggested to someone at Puke Ariki that for some Maori it has been like a 150-year recession/depression. He agreed.
That's my first point. I'll add to it over the next few weeks, point by point, and maybe with a bit of luck it will hang together semi-coherently by the end of it!
Months since I have blogged here, and at last life seems to be re-settling into some sort of happy pattern. We moved house twice over spring/summer - the 2nd time unexpectedly ... long story!
People said it would take a while to recover and get back to routines, but I didn't believe them. (Kind of like when you have your first baby and you think you will be back at work again straight away!)
All sorts of things didn't go as planned last year. I didn't even do any solar cooking. Not sure if that was the unpredictable weather, the moving, or both.
As for my grand plan to go fridgeless last winter ... The youngest member of the family experienced her first big hail storm and fell in love. She gathered 3 big bowlfuls of hail to keep forever. How was I supposed to turn the fridge/freezer off after that? :)
Some good things that happened last year, and that I somehow managed to crowbar in around moving ...
For the second half of 2009 I worked on the writing of a pretty disturbing exhibition at Taranaki's Puke Ariki - about the Taranaki Wars. Maybe I'll write a separate blog post on my thoughts about that.
I'm so grateful for the experiences and insights I gained on this job. I felt as if I had been gathering pieces to a jigsaw puzzle for years, not realising they were all part of the same picture. Then working on this exhibition suddenly I saw that they were.
Colonisation, along with industrialisation, capitalism, and the different facets of human nature ... that's the picture I mean. I know the total interconnectedness of these things has been obvious to lots of other people for a long time, but not so for me.
Less unsettlingly, in spring I helped on the organising committee of Spinning Gold - the first children's writers and illustrators conference held in NZ for many years.
The culmination of the committee's work was an intense, amazing, unforgettable weekend. I came home on Sunday evening in a euphoric daze. People involved in children's literature are, as a group, just so darn supportive and lovely. And a live-in conference venue full of over 100 of them is almost too much support and loveliness to be true.
(Sorry, it's nearly midnight; I tend to gush when I'm tired.)
Oh - and I also learned to spin for real - not just metaphorically.
For about 5 months now, under the expert tutelage of my mother, I've been working at trying to acquire and improve various spinning skills - at times feverishly and to the detriment of my sleep patterns.
I have another new hobby too, but that's whole other story.
Next, I'm hoping to find a way to bring all my scattered passions together into one overarching project, before my head explodes. Preferably in a way that might add the odd extra dollar to the family coffers. I think I have hit upon it, but there's a load of prep to do.
Right now I'm looking forward to getting back into reading some of my favourite blogs again.