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Grandma Doreen.

My grandmother Doreen was a seamstress, she kept every scrap of fabric just in case it could be useful later.

This is a shortened version of an article first published in Tots to Teens magazine, April/May issue

Sustainability may be the catchphrase of the 21st century, but it’s actually old school. It was only two generations ago that clothes were worn until they were worn out; mended, patched, darned, passed down then finally torn up and used as cleaning rags. “Waste not, want not” was my Grandmother’s mantra. It was the way they lived.

These days in our commercially-driven society, we are constantly bombarded with messages to buy! Buy! Buy! You need the latest phone, the latest toy, the latest fashions. We are using and throwing away more stuff than ever before.

But the earth is a finite place. And everything we do is connected. Every living thing on this planet relies on the same basic things as we do; clean water, clean air, food and a safe home.

Many people around the world have realised that these basic needs are in jeopardy because of the way we live. Because we are simply using too much stuff.

Sustainability is about changing the way we think and behave. It’s about making good choices. To be aware of how we might impact the environment, our community, and the world.

The sheer enormity of saving the world might seem too big a task for the average person. But if person starts with one small change, it can happen. And that’s exactly what the Earth Day campaign to collect ‘A Billion Acts of Green’ is all about. You can pledge your act online at www.earthday.org/2012.

Children too can be empowered early on to take part. The future world after all, is for them. Here are some pledge suggestions for different ages and stages:

Under five

  • Paint or draw on both sides of the paper. Use your paintings as wrapping paper for truly unique gifts.
  • Set up a box to collect bits and pieces for creating art – like bottle tops, boxes and ribbons.
  • Keep taps off while brushing teeth.
  • Look for the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers so you can help sort the recycling.
  • Find someone to hand your clothes onto when you out grow them.
  • Make your fifth birthday a green party – make invitations and decorations out of recycled stuff, serve fresh food on large plates instead of small disposable ones. Tell your guests to bring gifts they have made themselves or recycled from their own stash. (See seven steps to throwing an Earth Day party!)
Josie picking tomatoes.

Helping in the vegetable garden is a great way to learn about food and where it comes from!

5 – 8 years

  • Make green choices with your school supplies – buy recycled books and corn-starch biodegradable pens.
  • Turn off the light when you leave a room. Unplug your stereo or other electronics when you are not using them.
  • Start a swap club – get together with friends to swap books, CDs or games that you are bored with.
  • Collect paper that’s only been printed on one side (ask your parents first) Cut it up and staple them together to make a message pad for by the phone.
  • Ask your parents and friend’s parents to start a walking bus to get to school – or car-pool on wet days!

9 – 12 years

  • Ask for a solar charger for a present and use re-chargeable batteries in all your battery-powered toys.
  • Go green surfing: make a list of websites with ideas on how to be eco-friendly. Share the list with your friends and school teachers.
  • Write a letter to your favourite celebrity and ask them to support a local environmental trust. E.g. http://www.projectlitefoot.org/ top sportspeople are inspiring kiwis to become environmental champions.
  • Ask for a piece of the garden to grow your own vegetables and fruits. Look at a globe to see how far food has travelled to get to your cupboard!
  • Write a letter to your local council to make the streets safer for cyclists and to invest more in public transport.

But above all else – provide experiences! Love the Earth by getting to know its special qualities….

Josie and William at Peters Pool.

Peters Pool, Franz Josef

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Egg-hunts for Easter? That’s so old hat. Instead, Josie (a.k.a Super ladybug) and I have decided to go on a backyard bug-hunt.

Super ladybug.

Super ladybug a.k.a. Josie!

We’ve had some lovely bug close encounters just recently. It’s that wonderful time of year when we are harvesting our autumn crops, cutting back shrubs and trees ready for winter, and as we do so, we are uncovering some cool critters.

Like this amazing praying mantis that we found on the basil! He was pretty feisty, boxing at us with all his might, which just showed off the wonderful blue spots on the insides of his legs that identified him as New Zealand’s native mantis.

NZ praying mantis.

Josie meets a praying mantis

And our swan plants that we planted this summer are still producing crops of Monarch – this one landed on Josie’s knee to dry its wings! I haven’t quite convinced myself to plant onga onga nettle though – I know it’s a favourite of red admirals but it seems slightly bizarre to plant tree nettle in a home garden!

Josie and Monarch.

Josie and Monarch.

That is of course the best way to welcome insects – plant up your garden with plants that insects like.  Butterflies are attracted by lots of nectar and so like plants with flowers to rest and land on. The NZbutterfly website has some detailed fact sheets about each species of butterfly and what plants they like. Bees also like lots of nectar and they are pretty handy for pollinating flowers.  Native shrubs like Olearia, hebes, shrubby tororaro, and pittosporums like kōhūhu and tarata / lemonwood are all favourites of insects.

red admiral.

Red admiral

Of course anyone with a compost heap and vege garden would welcome worms as they help with important jobs like aerating the soil. Areas of long grass or hedges become refuges for insects to over-winter in and a good layer of mulch or leaf litter on the garden will also encourage insects.

So, to find out how insect-friendly our garden really is, we decided to see what else we could find. On the Department of Conservation website we found instructions on how to make two really cool traps to catch insects.

And to keep ourselves busy while waiting for our traps to catch something, we had a go at an inside insect hunt as well.

We made some rainbow rice, thanks to this great recipe from happy hooligans.

Bugs hiding in rainbow rice.

The bugs are hiding in rainbow rice!

I buried the bugs in the rice and then Josie “hunted” them down. Josie was so funny – she carefully uncovered by random scattering of insects, and then carefully placed them in lines – one line per rainbow stripe. Then she covered them back up again! She has a wonderful sense of order.

Happy entomologist.

Josie is a happy entomologist - even if she can't say the word!

I thought William would be too old for this activity but no, he was right into it as well. His approach was to pull all the bugs out, smooth the rice down with the back of a spoon. He then placed the bugs on top of the rice, grouping them by colour – which he then said was camouflage!

William uncovers the bugs.

William on the hunt for bugs

Anyway, we can’t wait ‘til Easter Sunday to check our potato traps – let the bug hunt begin!

Colour-coded camo bugs.

Colour-coded camo bugs as sorted by William.

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Our lives are so busy these days. As working parents in a commercially-driven world where success is the measure of worth, we are constantly rushing from one appointment to the next. Get up, go the gym, take the kids to school, go to work, pick up the kids from school, go to swimming lessons, violin lessons, ballet lessons, art, karate, play dates, cook dinner, put the kids to bed, go to the gym, night classes, choir, committee meetings, PTA…

Sometimes we just need to stop, listen, be still and take time to be in the moment.

Daisy's Flat.

Quiet times at Daisy Flat.

Sunday 4 March 2012 was Children’s Day. And I was too busy to publishing this blog on the day! (shame) The theme of children’s day for 2012  was ‘treasure our children’. We shouldn’t need a day to tell us that our children are a gift and that we should spend time with them. But with all this constant drive to improve ourselves and be successful, we sometimes forget to just be together. As a family. All of us. Not Mum and Josie while the boys go to swimming. Not Dad and William while Josie goes to ballet. All of us. Spending some time together marvelling at the world we find ourselves in. It only needs to be ten minutes. Ten minutes of being in the moment.

Here are six simple experiences to just be “in the moment” with your children. These can be done by children of any age, even (especially) infants.

1)     Lie under a tree and look up at the branches together. Watch the leaves blowing in the wind, and the way the sun sparkles as it flicks between the spaces. Close your eyes and listen.

2)     Find a warm rock and lie like lizards. Worship the sun by feeling how it warms the rock – or your driveway if you can’t find a suitable stone. Put your cheek or hands flat against the stone and feel its warmth.

3)     Go for a walk at the quiet end of the beach – no spades, no boogie boards, just you. Take off your shoes and find a spot where the sand is really wet. Scrunch your toes in the sand. Wiggle side to side and watch your feet. Close your eyes and listen to the waves.

Josie aged 9 months.

Josie at nine months explored the sand using multiple senses!

4)     Find a wild space (they are getting rare) where the grass is growing long. Get down low and look through the grass. Play hide and seek, or crawl pretending to be tigers. Look for butterflies and insects flitting from flower to flower. Lie down and close your eyes.

5)     When it rains sit in the window and watch the raindrops travel down the glass. Follow them with your finger. Pick on each and have a race. When it stops – or even if it doesn’t put on your coats and boots and go stomp in some puddles. Raise your face up towards the rain and you guessed it – close your eyes. Take a deep breath and smell the rain.

Down in the forest. Down in the forest

6)     Read a book together. Snuggle into a beanbag and cuddle. Down in the Forest, retold by Yvonne Morrison and illustrated by Jenny Cooper is great for really small kids as it’s a remake of an old rhyme “Over in the meadow” so it has wonderful rhythm and repetition as well as being familiar. It also features different families with each verse – a kiwi family, weta family, tui family and more, so it’s a wonderful choice to celebrate and read as a family.

in an old kowhai tree
lived a sweet mother tui
and her little tuis three.

“Sing!” said the mother
“We sing!” said the three
so they sang so sweetly
in that old kowhai tree.

P.S. This week is Seaweek, an annual celebration to reconnect with the sea and what it can teach us. It is being officially launched at an event from Auckland Zoo tonight. Stay tuned for sea-themed reads and maybe some other fun stuff to do! The website has lots of competitions and resources too so check it out.

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Anyone who has driven between Christchurch and the West Coast has driven past the spectacular limestone battlements of Castle Hill – Kura Tāwhiti. For those of you who have never stopped – you should.

Kura Tawhiti; photo Stuart Webb.

Sculptures of stone bridges and overhangs

Tomorrow, Waitangi Day, we are taking some friends to visit Kura Tawhiti for their first time.  To them, Waitangi Day is just another public holiday, a chance to get out of town. I’m hoping that a day at Kura Tāwhiti will change that for them.

Anyone who has visited Kura Tāwhiti will get a sense that this is a special place. It has drawn people in since people first walked these lands.  Early Māori left their stories here, marked on the stone and in the memories of their descendants.  Māori believe that all things have their own life force (mauri). Wandering through Kura Tāwhiti I can believe that too.

Kura Tāwhiti literally means “the treasure from a distant land”, referring to the kumara that was once cultivated in this region. Kura Tāwhiti was claimed by the Ngāi Tahu ancestor Tane Tiki, son of celebrated chief Tūāhuriri. The nearby mountains were famed for kakapo, and Tane Tiki wanted their soft skins and glowing green feathers for clothing to be worn by his daughter Hine Mihi. Stories like these link the landscape to the people – tangata whenua (people of the land).” (From DOC website)

Kura Tawhiti; photo Stuart Webb.

The centre of Kura Tawhiti is like nature's ampitheatre

Under the Ngāi Tahu Treaty Settlement Act, Kura Tawhiti was given Tōpuni status, which is a legal recognition of the site’s importance to the Ngāi Tahu tribe. Tōpuni comes from the traditional custom of chiefs extending power and authority over areas or people by placing a cloak over them.

For some, Waitangi Day – the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 – is a day of protest and debate about its place and meaning in Aotearoa today. I prefer to celebrate it by sharing our beautiful country and all its many intricate layers of culture and meaning with friends.  To share in a sense of pride and belonging. Like the limestone rock that makes up the battlements of Kura Tawhiti, Aotearoa has a rich and varied history, pressed together by time to create something magical.

Kura Tawhiti; photo Stuart Webb.

From Christchurch take highway 73 towards the West Coast. Kura Tawhiti is beside the highway in the Waimakariri Basin, about 80 minutes from Christchurch.

Kids in a hole; photo: Sarah Mankelow.

Adventure is crawling through a hole!

Coming up…

12 February – Darwin Day
http://darwinday.org/

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New track in Arthur's Pass.

New track in Arthur's Pass through sub-alpine wetland.

It’s weird I know but mountains are really good places to find wetlands. Arthur’s Pass National Parkhas got a great new track that runs from the village to Jack’s Hut and it passes through forest into sub-alpine wetlands. It’s a great place to see sundews, the tiny carnivorous plants that like to snare insects with their sticky leaves and eat them! Look out for giant dragonflies whizzing around like mini helicopters and if you see weird holes in the ground it may have been a kiwi probing for food. Arthur’s Pass is a two hour drive from Christchurch on SH 73.

Of course you don’t have to leave town to find wetlands as Christchurch was built on top of one! Around the city are little pieces of wetland that have been restored by communities and groups. Bexley, Travis and Otukaikino are all great wetlands with wacky plants that like wet feet such as flaxes, rushes and grasses. They have all changed recently after our earthquakes but that’s interesting to see as well.
Or if you have pre-schoolers who prefer to celebrate World Wetlands Day at home, why not look up some pictures of animals that live in wetlands and sing this action song!

Swamp romp (Suggested actions)

Let’s go on a swamp romp
(Walk on the spot with a stomping action)
There’s lots to see on a swamp romp
You never know who you might meet
(hands above eyes, searching)
But one things for sure, they’ll have wet feet
(Pick up feet and shake)
On a swamp romp, swamp romp

Look there’s …

Pukeko, swamp hen is a red-legged rail
(Put your hand in the small of your back and flick it around)
As he struts his stuff he flicks his tail

Fernbird, matata plays hide and seek
(Hold fingers in front of face your back and flick it around)
Amongst the reeds she likes to peek

Slippery eel, tuna fish    (Wriggle arms and body)
Wriggling about with a splosh, splash, splish

Inanga, whitebait likes to roam
(Put hands together and swim them like a fish)
They swim upstream to a forest home

Raupo bullrush grows very high
(Stretch hands and arms up)
Its roots are wet but its pods are dry

There’s more to see on a swamp romp
(Walk on the spot with a stomping action)
Come with me on a swamp romp
Tread gently and you’ll find
(Change stomp to a tip toe)
You will not leave a print behind
On a swamp romp, swamp romp

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