Asni: Multimedia Art & Design
On the Move
DIGITAL PRINTS now available on Ebay and on Trademe
Greeting card selection now available on Etsy * ASNI'S GARDEN: Original Watercolour paintings available on Etsy
Asni the Harper digital downloads: CD Baby ** Amazon MP3 * iTunes
SHEET MUSIC: Diego Fernandez de Huete: Compendio numeroso – original music for harp from baroque Spain
TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME MUSIC: Harp sheet music store * Travels in Middle Earth CD * 700 Years of Pop CD
NOW AVAILABLE: New Zealand Film Locations map: A3 poster * Snowflake Christmas/seasonal card * Queen Galadriel holiday card * Easter greeting cards
Middle of last month, I spontaneously decided to drive up to Auckland to attend a seminar organized by SCBWI – the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators – of which I have recently become a member. Good opportunity to do some of that all important professional networking, introduce myself to some of the other professionals in the field here in New Zealand, and learn something that might come in useful for getting my own book published.
It's been quite a while since I've been on the road. It's no longer as easy an operation as simply throwing all my things in the back of my car: now I have not only a garden to look after, but chickens and rabbits and geese, and guinea fowl. On the upside, all that chicken keeping has definitely started to have a beneficial effect on my social life, and so I was able to rope my kind neighbours in. Little Lily from next door is in love with my geese, and was delighted to help feed them.
The trip took me from the snow capped Tararuas, through springtime in Napier's orchards, and back to snow and misty grey in Taupo: there was snow on the central plateau, I could glimpse it from 50 km away across the lake.
On the way up, I had to rush: I was picking up a few things along the way, and needed to be in certain places at certain times. It felt rather like one of those treasure hunt games: follow directions to various out-of-the-way locations and collect your trophy!
I part-financed my trip to Auckland by saving myself the cost of freighting a bunch of fruit trees from Cambridge to Featherston, and picked them up along the way instead: I have finally managed to hunt down some of those German sour cherry trees I've been looking for the last couple of years, from a nursery in the Waikato that supplies commercial orchards. They also sell to backyard gardeners, but their minimum order is five trees.
The original plan was to plant maybe two or three, and put the rest on Trademe. But when I got back home, having spent so much time and trouble hunting them down, I decided that I could find the space to plant all five. So now I have a little forest of sour cherries growing. At least that way, hopefully I will eventually produce enough to make it worth the while to sell them, either as raw fruit, or in some processed form. The orchardists were delighted: apparently they don't sell a lot of this variety of tree!
On the way down, I had an early start: I woke up in the middle of the night and made my way to the facilities, then decided that the cabin really was not appealing enough to make it worthwhile to crawl back into my sleeping bag. So I hit the road at about four in the morning, and caught the sunrise just outside Matamata, two hours down along the way.
I still had a couple of things to collect on the way down, and was now running several hours early, so I decided to make it a leisurely drive. I stopped by at the hot springs in Okoroire, which I'd driven past often but never tried out, and went for an early morning swim. By the time I reached Taupo, the lost night's sleep was beginning to catch up on me: I pulled over to have a power nap, which turned into a solid two hour's sleep – so I ended up right back on schedule.
For company, in the back of the car among the sleeping bags and provisions and a bundle of fruit trees, was a cage with a peahen in it. She's called Sarasvati, and she is lovely. She patiently put up with being driven right across the country in a cage that was ever so slightly too small for her, and when we got home, she decided that she was going to sleep on the shelf in my back entryway just outside my bedroom. I decided that this is indeed a most excellent place for my peahen to live. I have found my perfect pet!
Asni's Garden: Prune plum Bühler Frühzwetschge
News & Current Projects
The main reason for going up to Auckland was, of course, the seminar organized by SCBWI. It was worthwhile, and I received some good and useful feedback for my own book, which I can directly apply to the work that is yet to do. On the downside, it had me waste another few weeks waiting around for someone to get back to me about getting an editor on board, which never happened.
We are now coming into October, so launching the book at the Featherston Book Town festival is not going to happen. But this weekend, the Tinderbox conference in Wellington is coming up, and I will take my draft and see that I find people who can proofread and give me the feedback I still need. I'm friends with enough people in the field that I shouldn't have to rely on hiring some random professional!
This may seem like a huge amount of procrastination, but then again I have been around in the arts for long enough to know that it never pays to hasten things, and put them out there before they are ready. If I can wait three or more years for my fruit trees to start bearing, then I can take the time it needs to make this book what it needs to be.
I've begun to think of this year as my sabbatical year. At the moment, my brain just feels tired. It's a relief to focus on the seasonal garden work, and looking after my growing family of animals, and not spending so much time with creative work. I suppose the good doctor was right, and I needed something else besides my work to focus on for a while! I have been doing the "roll out of bed and sit behind the computer until you drop back in" thing for months in a row last year, and it's not healthy.
I've also come off pulling all nighters in order to get work finished – which is one reason this newsletter didn't get done by my usual last-weekend-of-the-month schedule. I now have an adolescent rooster, and a baby sheep. This changes a lot of things.
The one painting I managed to do this month, of my German prune plum in blossom, doesn't really satisfy me: too many interruptions, and it ended up being a bit overworked. But the springblossomy season is not nearly finished yet, and I'm hoping for some fine days in the garden still. This time of year is about the only time when we ever get something like stable weather conditions, meaning it has been pouring with rain for more than a week straight! No way I can paint in that weather, anyway.
My back entry has now been stripped of its furniture – except for the shelf where the peahen lives – and of its old wallpaper, but in the rain this last week it had to do service as an all purpose animal shelter: good thing I am redecorating anyway! So the home redecoration project is also proceeding, slowly, but surely.
Father challenges his daughter to beatbox competition. What a talent!!!!!Posted by DJ Aligator on Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Because I haven't got much of my own work to share this month, here is something I found on Facebook: Beatbox competition!
On AMAZING STORIES, I've continued my new series of posts featuring the aesthetic appeal of modern technology with a contemplation of Robots, and Escalators. The current refugee crisis is something that touches me personally, I reproduce my post on this topic below. Since I was apparently the only one who addressed this burning issue on Amazing Stories, the post got me an entry in Popular Posts, which pleases me enormously because it means some people have read it. Back on schedule, my latest post is on Lasers, and features some booby chicks in scanty clothing, for a change – something I usually avoid! Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.
You can download tracks on CD Baby directly, or on iTunes, Amazon Mp3, and a bunch of other online music providers : just search for Asni the Harper. Of course, you can also order music CDs and harp sheet music directly through my website.
My hens have been so busy laying eggs, that I have now put a little table outside my garden gate to sell them to the neighbours: so far I have made $ 8 from egg sales, which I intend to invest in another hen as soon as I have saved up enough.
At this point, I need to collect the chicken eggs over a few days to make a half dozen (minus the ones I eat myself), but I reckon if I get two or three more hens, I can get a regular supply going. Then it will be worth my while to do a proper street side sale where it is a bit more busy than in my quiet side street! Although I imagine that word of mouth is soon going to go around: no one wants to buy factory eggs, and people seem really grateful for good quality eggs available locally.
Moreover, my geese have been laying! Selma started off with something that reminded me of a dinosaur egg, but tasted very nice when made into an omelette. She is now sitting dedicatedly on a couple of fake plastic eggs, and I feel bad about it – she'll be so disappointed! Lucy has since followed suit. And yesterday I found a couple of duck eggs, too. They make excellent pancakes. I'll report what pea egg tastes like if and when Sarasvati pops her first.
Stout is now positively a rooster: he kept me in doubt for a long while, but then I spotted him jumping up on Big Mary (whom he seems to find very sexy) before he'd even started to crow, or grown his tail feathers. He did find his crow eventually, on a Sunday morning of course! So now he sleeps in a box inside the house.
Little Feng has gone broody: she was sitting on just one egg of her own, so I gave her some of Big Mary's eggs to hatch, plus a couple from Buten and Binnen. So hopefully there will be some homegrown chicks in the near future!
Breeding a few Orpingtons may not be a bad proposition, as this breed is very popular with the lifestyle crowd. And of course it will also replenish my own stock of hens. I'm curious what the cross breeds will be like, and the Doctor Frankenstein in me wonders if I can get my rooster to make babies with the Guinea fowl, and maybe the peahen? But Princess Pea would probably consider that to be completely undignified. Still – a black Orpington/peacock cross could be some bird to look at!
In fact, my little zoo has become the talking point of the neighbourhood: my rabbits are universal favourites, the chickens and geese are much admired, and people marvel at the guinea fowl and peahen.
But what really did it was when I spontaneously decided to adopt a lamb: Tiny Tim will make grown men go all soft and gooey, and passers-by now routinely stop to catch a glimpse of His Cuteness, and chat with me over the garden fence. My social life is improving in leaps and bounds!
How did that happen? It began with a Trademe ad, of course: some people in Masterton were selling a pair of Indian runner ducks for all of $20. I could not resist: ducks who walk like penguins? Just what I needed for my poultry collection.
They turned out to be a lovely couple from the UK who are living the rural lifestyle dream in the Wairarapa. Seeing that the lambing season is in full swing, they had a bunch of them bouncing about. I'd been thinking, recently, that it would be nice to find a lamb I can raise on a bottle: the next best thing to a goat, really. So when the lady mentioned in conversation that the little crooked-legged fellow who was following her like a shadow would be free to a good home, I said "Are you serious? Because I'll take him".
Tiny Tim is a Wiltshire and was born the runt of a litter of triplets: they didn't think he'd pull through, but he did. You wouldn't believe it now, when you see him bounce about! I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with him when he grows up – keep him on as a lawnmower, I suppose, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Meanwhile, I give thanks daily that I was never tempted to have a human baby: even managing to give this lamb his feeds on something approaching a regular schedule for just a few weeks, is already making me impatient for him to grow up and eat grass!
In other new additions, there is Noodle the Indian runner duck – her mate, unfortunately, decided he didn't like it here and ran off practically the moment he got here. Runner ducks can't fly – so I didn't expect an escape – but they can wriggle through fences, and they run pretty fast! Last time I saw him, the pretty drake was determinedly walking up Underhill Road, so I wonder if he may have tried to find his old flock? Birds are odd that way. It certainly was the right direction. Noodle, however, has settled in and made friends with my two geese. She was a bit shy at first, but by now she eats from my hand.
I've been planning to get a boy rabbit for my two girls, and have them have a litter before I get them sterilized, back when Yang was still alive. Yin will be old enough beginning of November, so it was time to look for another young rabbit who would then also be old enough to make babies. I picked up young Mumrik the same day I got Noodle and Tiny Tim, so he has been running wild a bit and not always getting his full share of attention, but he is a lovely and enterprising young fellow, who seems more confident and independent than Yin and Yang were at that age.
Sadly, I've had to decide to let go of Te Po: she and Yin were getting along fine for a while, but whether it was the introduction of a young male, or general spring time hormones, lately they have been doing nothing but fight and compete. I can't keep them in the same pen any more, and as far as I can make out, Te Po has decided that the entire garden is her personal territory, and bullied Yin off until she's make a new a home on my neighbour's property, which is not a good situation.
She is quite affectionate with humans and likes to be held and cuddled – so much so that she doesn't like sharing the attention with other rabbits! She'd be a great pet where she is the only rabbit, and can be the center of attention. Plus, she is a conspicuously beautiful creature, with her fluffy night sky coloured hair and dark head. I've put an ad on Trademe, but if anyone on this mailing list would be interested in taking her, that would be great! We can negotiate the asking price.
Images have power. Nothing has shown that more clearly than the sudden turn of the tide in the current refugee crisis, after the image of the little boy found drowned on a Turkish holiday beach made the rounds of the social networks and the media.
To be sure, for many people it must have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The outpouring of sympathy and practical help we’ve been witnessing these last weeks, particularly in Germany and Austria, but also, finally, in the UK where several grassroots initiatives have sprung up to provide for the people stuck in Calais, has made one thing clear: the politicians who believe they pander to popular feeling when they talk about building fences and turning back boats, the media people who try to sell their stories by stoking up dark age fears of wild hungry hordes besieging Europe, are utterly out of touch with how their readership, how the population they are supposed to represent, actually feels. People want to help. They really, really do.
Speaking for myself, I have been low level aware of the situation for quite a long time – many years, in fact. I’ve been taking in the news of people stuck in refugee camps for indefinite periods, of people drowning in droves in the Mediterranean, or slowly dying on boats unable to land anywhere, while the media called them “hordes” and “swarms” and even, apparently, “cockroaches”, while governments spent their money building fences and detention camps instead of providing help, with a growing sense of dismay and frustration.
Was Europe, and the rest of the western world, so far gone to the far right these days, that we think we have the right to divide the world into those who may live (and in prosperity, at that) – and those whose lives are not valuable enough? How could it be that politicians could hope they would not have to deal with the problem if they simply did nothing, and let people drown? How is that better than putting them in a gas chamber right away?
Isn’t our sense of moral superiority based precisely on the fact that we have created documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Had people forgotten that this document explicitly states that refugees have rights? We’re not talking charity here: we’re talking legal obligation.
If I’ve been holding those news at arm’s length so far, it is because they hit a little too close to home: I come from a family of refugees myself.
To me, these are not abstract items on the news. They are my mother’s nightmares, and her ongoing panic attacks. Her childhood ended very abruptly one day when she was eight years old, and her mother put her and her sister on a train to join family in what is now the Czech Republic, to keep them safe. She is pushing eighty now.
A couple of months later the war had caught up with them, and my grandmother bundled up her two girls and whatever belongings she could fit on her trusty bike. They became part of the flood of ethnic German refugees from Eastern Europe who made their way, largely on foot, to reach a Germany in ruins.
The numbers? Circa 14 million, of which about 2 million lost their lives due to allied bombings, murder by the advancing Russian troops, or to deprivation. And those were just the ethnic Germans: other nationalities such as Poles, Ukrainians, and Baltic people, as well as the Eastern European Jews, were also displaced en masse due to Stalin’s “russification” policies and ongoing antisemitism after the war.
Somehow, they got taken in and provided for, just barely: there wasn’t nearly enough food those first couple of years after the war, and my mother tells stories of foraging for edible weeds among the railway tracks, of cooking the potato peels more fortunate people had thrown away. Of being permanently cold and hungry. They were allocated a room that had a hole in the floor from bomb damage. But somehow they pulled through. My grandma worked as a Trümmerfrau – the women who cleared up the rubble of bombed buildings, very physically demanding work but it entitled her to more food coupons to feed her daughters.
Ten years later, Germany was back on its feet and experiencing one of the greatest economic booms in history — while my hardworking grandmother was unemployed for three years. She died before I was born, of lung cancer brought on by inhaling the asbestos from the bombed buildings she had helped clear up. She was by all accounts an unusually clever, brave, and very resourceful woman. I would have liked to have met her.
If Europe could manage it in 1945, when it was in smithereens and licking its wounds from the war, what’s the excuse for not managing it now?
Refugees from Eastern Europe, 1945 * People fleeing armed conflict in the Democratic Republic Congo, 2012
If Germany has gone and set an example of how to react to a humanitarian crisis, then the political reaction in New Zealand was, as usual, largely absent. Our government grandiosely announced that the country will accept a hundred extra refugees over our quota – which is meagre in international comparison as it is – by Christmas. If the people in question are still alive by then!
This in a country which continues to actively encourage immigration, as long as applicants meet the criteria for being wealthy, or professionally skilled, preferably white Anglosaxon, human alphas. Points are deducted for brown skin and broken English, not to mention chronic illness or disability, and goodness help us, we don't want any of them Muslims!
I felt sufficiently strongly about the issue to make the drive into Wellington and add my body count to the number of protesters who gathered in front of Parliament to demand a more appropriate contribution, on New Zealand's part, to this international crisis. The turnout was meagre, even for New Zealand standards, where there isn't exactly a culture of political protest in the street.
Some of the discussions I read on the event's Facebook page made me want to vomit. There are school age young people in New Zealand who spout opinions which in Germany, would never be remotely acceptable unless you hang out with a neonazi gang. If New Zealand ever had the moral high ground, then over the twelve years I have been here, it has been losing it really, really fast. For shame, for shame, for shame.
Arohanui, from Asni
Disappointing turnout at a demonstration in Wellington to demand an increase of New Zealand's refugee quota, 2015