The Best Teacher

The weather for the last week of school holidays has been fantastic. Not that the sun shone constantly, it was more it was out there at fortuitous times. The one downpour happened while we were inside for morning coffee, obliging clouds rolled in during the heat of the day, and the one windy day dried the washing so swiftly we managed to catch a glimpse of the illusive bottom the laundry basket. Oh, Joy unbounded! As a result, we’ve continued to chug through the spring weeding round of the Perpetual Garden Clock and the garlic has now emerged from it’s cloak of nettles.


Nettle-free garlic

The nettles are now wallowing in the steeping barrel until the time is right to press them into service as the malodorous but unsurpassed plant-pick-me-up, Nettle Tea. The production process of Homestead Nettle Tea has been one of those infamous steep learning curves, the gist of which we will share with you so we can fool ourselves into thinking our stupidity has a purpose. It is simply this: make sure your tea is very, very, certainly, definitely, absolutely, indubitably sieved and strained. Pass it through sieves and mesh and old stockings and the like until you are sure not one inkling of a nettle seed is left – and then repeat the process. Failure to do so will result in a nettle force field of Star Wars proportions; we speak from experience  – which is a wonderful teacher.

It wasn’t that long ago every Homestead building project had it’s dimensions predetermined by the length of permaculture resources (ie: stockpiled stuff-that-might-come-in-handy-one-day) and was affixed by either bindertwine or extra long nails. Slowly but surely, through experiences both fair and foul, we have become proficient enough (ahem) to contemplate tackling a few precision jobs. Some, like unsticking the aged front doors (an ongoing project in a city where the earth moves constantly, either of its own accord or because the machinery involved in the “clean up” bounces us around) is still beyond us and the only answer is to ensure the door is closed when the next tremble occurs, hopefully realigning it. It took The Goat Herd and Milk Maid a couple of hours and some very terse words to reach this conclusion. Chalk that one up to experience!

On the other side of the coin, however, is the the wonder that is our worm farm cover.


Get that! Purpose cut, workable hinges AND it’s own catch.

Or even the idea that WE could assemble our own kitchen cabinets


“Assume you know nothing and follow the instructions,” we were directed. Not that difficult really, in our experience.

But some jobs are best left to those in the know. We have been resisting posting photos of the kitchen progress, with the aim of dazzling you all with the finished product. That was before we returned home this afternoon, having left our house in the capable hands of the friendly folk from Grant Sutherland Floor Sanding. On the door, they’d left a message


and inside, the result of way more experience that we could ever garner.


But sometimes, even if experience tells you it’s beyond your level of expertise, you find yourself facing something that just has to be done; well, with precision, and immediately. Such was the case for our wonderful neighbour, Mrs Ezekiel Tigerlily, this morning when she encountered a large, well fed, bold-as-brass rat in her laundry.  Over-the-fence conversation has often centred around the rise in vermin in our suburb (as the quake-abandoned housing is slowly demolished) and our collective revulsion of rodents, in general, and rats in particular. In short, they give us the heebie-jeebies. But, on discovering this imposter, did she scream, grab her children, and run for the hills? No! Calmly instructing her babies to vacate the premises, she grabbed a base ball bat (don’t ask), took aim, and effectively, cleanly, quickly, and precisely, dispatched it. Homestead participation equalled acceptance and disposal of the offender (and plastic bag shroud), a small amount of trauma-counselling, and a large dollop of cheer leading.

Which makes for a great story to end on, but not an experience we’d hanker to repeat anytime soon – even our small part in it.  Sarah, you are our hero 🙂

12 thoughts on “The Best Teacher

  1. Yes indeed: experience is the best teacher. I always tell the boys so when I forget to tell them something and they get in trouble ;0)
    I love Nettle tea and nettle soup . But your nettles must be of the most vicious kind, all I had to do in the Netherlands was soak them a little in hot water.
    And do think if your name is Mrs. Ezekiel Tigerlily…you are capable of ANYTHING! But killing calmly a rat who showed his ugly face in the laundy, deserves a medal and lots of cake.
    And I learned something again, I thought that NZ had no rats???
    The garden and kitchen floor are stunnig. Have a great weekend, Johanna

    • We often eat the nettles, too, especially when there’s not a lot of other greens in the garden. We especially like them in quiche or mashed into potatoes with lots of gravy – a sort of Homestead stamppot. The nettle tea we feed the plants is the result of nettles lying around in water for a long time. The liquid smells revolting but the plants love it!
      NZ was rat free initially and we still have some islands that are where our native birds (who are often flightless) flourish, but everywhere else we share our environments with the horrid things that so effectively stowed away on the early settlers ships.
      Thanks for your kind words – both the garden and kitchen have a ways to go, but we’re pretty pleased with them 🙂

  2. We had some monster rats in our garden during the spring. An old barn was demolished up the lane and the rats became homeless. They decided our garden shed was the ideal place to live under. They were very relaxed and soon felt at home. We saw them sauntering about the garden close to the house and so we decided to take action before they moved into the house with us. I don’t know that I could bash one over the head though. I don’t think my husband could either. We fed them poison bait (the coward’s way out) and they are no more. The wormery cover is excellent and your new kitchen floor looks a dream!

  3. I’m super impressed with the carpentry skills – a deplorable lack around here for sure. Rounded corners! HInges that work! and now kitchen cabinets. That floor is seriously gorgeous – what a lovely thing to come home to. And yes, worth getting done professionally. Rats are everywhere people are, they have adapted superbly to all the habitats we live in. They say for every one rat you see, there are 10 more in the vicinity. Not a cheery thought, but in my experience, fairly accurate. We have quite a few unfortunately, thanks to having plenty of unused outbuildings and barns etc on our and our neighbours properties. We all have cats, and some people use poison. I put out traps most nights, and usually get a couple, as does the cat. My city dwelling brother-in-law was visiting the other day and I didn’t realize he’d come over to see what I was doing with the chickens (he was supposed to be sipping tea and making conversation with the rest of the family while I did chores), and came round the corner just as I was flinging a good sized one out of a trap into the next field. He handled it quite well considering the trajectory of the dead rat only missed his ear by a couple of centimetres.

    • I’m not a great one for all that lol/omg stuff but I would like you to know that I am literally laughing out loud at the rat story 🙂
      I loath the things; they make my skin crawl. I am in total awe of anyone that can handle them, dead or alive.

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