Vegetable gardens at Todmorden Community College

Vegetable gardens at Todmorden Community College

Five years ago a couple of grandmothers decided to start a project in Todmorden, a Victorian mill town of 15,000 in West Yorkshire.

The project is called Incredible Edible and it has resulted in thousands of vegetables being planted in 70 large beds around the town. And get this: locals are encouraged to help themselves. A few tomatoes here, a handful of broccoli there. If they’re in season, they’re yours. Free.

There are carrots in front of the police station, raspberries, apricots and apples on the canal towpath; blackcurrants, redcurrants and strawberries beside the doctor’s surgery; beans and peas outside the college; cherries in the supermarket car park; and mint, rosemary, thyme and fennel by the health centre.

Edibles in the cemetery.

Edibles in the cemetery.

Incredible Edible is about more than plots of veg. It’s about educating people about food, and stimulating the local economy. Realistically, the thousands of town centre vegetable plants are not going to feed a community of 15,000 by themselves. But the publicly visible beds are designed to encourage residents to grow their own food at home.

And this is precisely what has happened. Today, hundreds of townspeople who began by helping themselves to the communal vegetables are now well on the way to self-sufficiency.

The police of Todmorden indicate that, year on year, there has been a reduction in vandalism since the project started. Why? One of the founding grandmothers, Pam Warhurst’s response: ‘If you take a grass verge that was used as a litter bin and a dog toilet and turn it into a place full of herbs and fruit trees, people won’t vandalise it. I think we are hard-wired not to damage food.’

Incredible Edible is a project clearly based on trust and I sometimes wonder if we could make something like this work here. A while back a group planted some mandarin trees on a small roadside reserve in Mill Bay. The trees disappeared overnight. Not long ago a group of us planted some natives by the car park in Taumarumaru Reserve in Coopers Beach. The more unusual native trees disappeared within days. The manuka and flax were left. Reserve volunteers replanted and those trees too vanished. Obviously attitudes will have to change in order to get a project like Incredible Edible to work in our communities.

Taipa Coast Care at work

Taipa Coast Care at work

How can we do this? Why not follow the example of the folks upgrading the verge adjacent the beach at Taipa. They’ve engaged the young people of Taipa Area School and there has been remarkably little vandalism. The students have taken ownership of the project and feel disinclined to damage it. Could we engage beneficiaries even one day a week to plant and tend public food gardens? I wonder. I wonder. Maybe one of the solutions to local crime and unemployment could be as simple as this. What do you think?

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com

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Lucia and I with part of the cultural group from Waitangi.

Lucia and I with part of the cultural group from Waitangi.

Lucia and I took up an opportunity offered to all Far North residents for the month of May. We visited one of our favourite local places – Waitangi – and watched and participated in a cultural performance and a guided tour, for free. I encourage others to do the same. Good things are happening at Waitangi!

I say participated in the cultural performance because it began with a powhiri outside Te Whare Runanga and then progressed to a dynamic show inside the marae. I overheard a conversation between a performer and visitor from the Whangarei i-SITE. It seems some tour companies have been so impressed that they are now bringing overseas visitors arriving via Auckland International Airport directly to the Bay of Islands and Waitangi rather than the traditional route to Rotorua.
We’ve done self-guided tours around Waitangi a number of times but the tour we had this time, guided by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Horeke native filled in blanks in our knowledge and understanding we didn’t even know existed. For a long time I’ve felt any visit to the Far North should include Waitangi. I feel even more strongly about that now.

While living in Kerikeri in the 90s we often took our children with us to the pungent healing waters of Ngawha Springs. We decided to return to Ngawha after our touristic trip to Waitangi and we were not disappointed. What a relaxing way to finish a day! The pools feel great but it’s the interactions with the locals that takes the place from quaint to the quintessence of what the Far North represents to me. It’s real. It’s not about show. And it doesn’t matter if you smell like sulphur afterwards. Regulars freely share stories –like the one of the man with sores all over his body who camped out by the springs for a week. He rubbed mud on his skin and left it to dry before rinsing off later. By the end of the week his skin had completely cleared up. Another local told me: ‘If it wasn’t for this place I’d have been in a casket sixteen years ago.’ He had serious circulation issues then. He looks the picture of health now.

One thing that struck me as interesting during this journey was that a number of people from further south in the district had not even heard of Te Ahu when I mentioned it. Our lives, rightfully so, revolve around our immediate community. But I believe it behoves each of us to get to know and to support the exciting and innovative efforts of others in the area. Next time, before you head off to Auckland or further for a long weekend, why not consider doing something special right here in the Far North? You’ll save money on petrol, you’ll be supporting the local economy and, if you’re like us, you’ll return home feeling grateful to be living in such a special part of the world.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com

 

The halls are alive with the sound of music. Wiki Karena of Pukenui has taken advantage of the publically accessible Yamaha piano in the atrium at Te Ahu. Each time Wiki arrives in Kaitaia he takes time to tinkle the ivories.

“He loves to play,” says Wiki’s wife Norma, who often accompanies him on his musical forays into the acoustically-interesting atrium at Te Ahu. “The first thing he does in the morning is sit down to play on his piano. All the neighbours open their windows to enjoy the music.”

Wiki Karena was born in Te Kao in 1930. “I taught myself to play a piano that my auntie bought from a teacher leaving Te Kao School.” At the age of twelve Wiki left home to attend the Maori Boy’s Hostel in Auckland. After studying carpentry and completing his trade apprenticeship Wiki began work for Sir James Fletcher, hammering and sawing in state housing in Tamaki, Huntly and other areas. All told he laboured for thirty years on the harbour front in Auckland before retiring.

It was then that the Far North called Wiki home and he and Norma have lived in Pukenui ever since.

Wiki in the Atrium at Te Ahu

Wiki in the Atrium at Te Ahu

Te Ahu’s John Haines says: “Wiki has an uncanny knack for arriving just when a tour or other function is going on, prompting people to think his performance was arranged ahead of time. On the Saturday when Te Ahu’s art space was launched with exhibits by Robin Shepherd and Raewyn Crozier, Wiki was there.” At the time one visitor was overheard saying: “I could be in Auckland. We’ve got coffee, art and music. And this is Kaitaia!”

Wiki free-wheels through a broad range of easy listening favourites from artists as diverse as Perry Como, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Visitors love it and often stop to chat with this talented octogenarian. Wiki takes it all in stride saying: “Not bad for someone who can’t read music.”

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com

One of the great pleasures for a parent is to sit snuggled up with your child (or children) reading a book aloud. We are so fortunate today to have children’s picture books with outstandingly vivid and colourful artwork. Artist/authors such as Eric Carle, Jeannie Baker, Colin Thompson and New Zealand’s own Lynley Dodd come to mind. Reading out loud like this instils a love of books in young people. You can’t start the process too early.

One of the great disappointments I’ve experienced as a parent happened the day my children disappeared with the book I was reading out loud to them—to read themselves! The disappointment didn’t last for long. I knew I’d done my job. Our daughters are, to this day, lovers of books and literature. I now have to wait for our first grandchild to revive this great pleasure of reading out loud to youngsters. But you may not have to. Here are a couple of authors with adventurous stories to read out loud (until your children take off with the book!)

Arthur Ransome (1884 –1967) was an English author and journalist turned foreign correspondent and spy in Russia during the Great War. Upon his return to Britain he settled in the Lakes District, the area which inspired his first children’s book Swallows and Amazons. Many more followed, telling of school-holiday adventures of children, mostly in the Lake District and the Norfolk Broads. Many of the books involve sailing; other common subjects include fishing and camping. The books remain so popular that they provide a basis of a tourist industry around Windermere and Coniston Water – the two lakes that Ransome used as the basis for his fictional North Country lake. We possess the series in the FNDC library system and encourage you to introduce these gems to your children.

Willard Price (1887 –1983), a naturalist who worked with National Geographic, wrote his Adventure Books to encourage an interest in natural history among children. There are fourteen books in the series. We have them all in the FNDC library system plus Price’s exciting autobiography. In reading his own story I discovered that Willard Price was born in Peterborough, Ontario, a lovely small city in the picturesque Kawartha Lakes region of Southern Ontario that I called home for five years. Here’s a brief summary of his books which I cannot too highly recommend for young people, particularly reluctant male readers, interested in adventure and the outdoors.

When naturalist John Hunt realises that both his sons are too young for their classes and getting too far ahead in school he makes them an offer: take one year out and work in the family business. Hunt runs a wildlife reserve and supplies animals to zoos, circuses and conservation parks. It is no surprise when both boys jump at the chance. The Hunt brothers, Roger and Hal, travel all around the world, studying and capturing animals and learning to survive on the African veldt, desert islands and Arctic tundra. The stories are sort of Gerald Durrell meets the Hardy Boys. They’re great fun to read and a learning experience.

Membership in the library is free for anyone under the age of eighteen so give your children the life-long gift of reading by bringing them to the library.

One more thing. We recently updated our magazine collection and we’re pleased to announce some exciting additions to our already comprehensive collection. So look out for new gems such as NEXUS (the NZ edition is published right here in the Far North), Lifestyle Block and Popular Science which augment our old standbys.

The Kaitaia Public Library  at the new Te Ahu Centre is open Monday to Friday from 8.30-5.00 and Saturdays from 9-1. Please note our new phone number is 09 4089455. Come in and meet our friendly, helpful staff and browse our full and diverse collection of books and other media materials and regale in a new, true library experience in our stunning and artistic Te Ahu space.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com