This spring and early summer were so cold and wet that we didn’t do much garden maintenance. I usually trim the forcythia after it blooms but  have only ever trimmed a foot or two off. I didn’t get to it this summer which meant that it was very tall and very lanky by August.

I read that you can trim it any time in the growth season as long as it has enough time to restore its energy for the winter. I also read that it’s common to cut it back to a third of its size. One garden site said that if you didn’t like the shape just hack it back to near the ground!

It was no longer any recognisable shape so I thought I’d try a radical ‘trim’. Since summer growth bears the spring flowers and because I wanted to give it a chance to keep photosynthesising I kept a few clusters of leaves on longer branches.

My main approach, however, was this:
Cut anything dead. Cut anything trying to intersect with anything else. Leave a third of the branches in the trunk area and be sure they have air circulation. Focus on keeping younger and more flexible branches. Revisit the spared branches to trim them in to a third of the length with two leaf clusters remaining.


As you can see, the branches that were cut way down have since leafed and I’ll be able to cut the tall branches after their spring flower knowing that I have renewed the shape of the forcythia.

*excuse the weirdly focused phone shot!


This weekend I had the opportunity to go away camping with the Guides. Around 20 adults and over 100 young people from across the country attended and I ran several sessions on Girl Scouts USA with the girls. I talked about the common values and experiences, GS cookies and summer camp, and taught them songs and games. I was thrilled to be asked and for the opportunity to take part. It felt just like Girl Scouts, which isn’t really a surprise because it was Guides but I have missed that. I had the best time doing youth work in that environment because it really is my native setting and it was great to be goofy with the other leaders. It was a wonderful weekend.

During one of the sessions I ran, a girl mentioned having been a Girl Scout in California when she lived in the US when she was younger and another leader told us about selling New Zealand Guide cookies! At the campfire that night, I taught an action song and it felt wonderful to hear so many people singing around the campfire. As we transitioned to slower songs, I was asked if I wanted to teach another song. I headed up to the fire and thought about what I might teach and knew that it had to be Magic.  

Magic is the name of a song I learned at Camp Tohi when I was in 4th grade. I can’t remember what counsellor taught it to us that year, but I came home with a new favourite song. Over the years, it has become a core song we sang all the time when I was a camper and then through my years as a staff member. It is always the first slow song I teach groups if they don’t know it so I knew that this was the song I needed to share with the Guides this weekend.  

I taught the chorus to the whole group and had just begun to sing the first verse when I heard a voice near me singing it. I looked and saw the camper that had told me she lived in CA and I said ‘you know this song? Come sing it!’ She declined and in that second I remembered her mentioning California and asked ‘Did you go to Skylark?’ She said yes. I said ‘after 2001?’ She said yes. I said as I realised ‘I taught them that song!’ 

Everyone heard this and one of the leaders said ‘now you really need to get up to sing’ to the camper. She did and we stood there by the fire singing the verses, surrounded by Girl Guides singing the chorus strongly with us. I had a moment when I teared up because I realised that the song I took from my childhood camp and shared with others because I loved it came back to me in Scotland. It was powerful because even though my camp was sold this summer, the magic I learned and lived there and do my best to share with other Girl Scouts and Guides is living and being passed down to young people still. I had the proof singing next to me.   

Girl Scout Camp Staff Tie

I have been invited to talk about the Girl Scouts USA at an upcoming Girl Guiding weekend. I was thrilled to be asked and then realised that I did not have a GS pin here with me, or even a world association pin. What’s a good Girl Scout to do to make sure she represents her home organisation? Use her resources wisely and head upstairs to see what fabric awaits in the ‘Arts and Crafts’ hall (aka room), and make what Girl Scout summer camp staff would recognise as a staff tie. 

Traditionally, someone else has to tie the friendship knot in the centre so I talked Honey through the process. Since I don’t have my membership pin in Scotland, I used the closest pin I could to hold its place. 


A Wardrobe Pledge

When playing on polyvore and trying to figure out my next Project 333 wardrobe, I realised that there were only a few things I owned but didn’t wear. I got rid of them and with that subtraction, choosing 33 items for 3 months would mean that I only boxed away a handful of items like a summer top or light cardigan.

That inspired me to stretch the season of everything I have: my summer top, for instance, gets an extra pop of colour when layered with a modern thermal.


With this challenge comes two realisations: I have more than enough outfits for a range of occasions, and I get the most excited/nostalgic for wardrobe changes in the fall and summer.
Inspiration × Realisation = I am pledging to not buy new clothes for the school year.

How to Pick Berries

1. As you hang laundry, discover that the blackberries/tayberries are ripe. 

2. Eat one but then show restraint and hang the rest of the load.

3. Go inside for a bowl and a camera and only return with your camera. 

4. Take appropriate documentary photos of the berries

5. Start watching the bees and practice some photography, say shutter speed and auto tracking.

6. Marvel in the different sounds of the different bees and ask some to slow down a tad so you can watch them.

7. Wander around the garden with the camera for 20 minutes or so, photographing whatever takes your fancy. 

8. Discover that the bluebell seeds are ready and pick them to sprinkle in additional patches. 

9. Find yourself out front in one of the aforementioned patches, photographing things and finally remember you were ‘picking’ berries.

10. Get a bowl and begin picking berries, momentarily pretending as berries ‘fall’ into your mouth that you’re sorry that some are just too ripe to make it to the bowl. Dutifully save some for your wife.  

Recharging and Detoxing

I am the kind of person that cannot sleep in and who finds it hard to fall asleep unless I am so exhausted my thoughts cannot even keep me awake. I go to yoga because it feels good but because I get a reprieve from my busy brain. You might think that this says creative and driven, but when the thoughts that spring me from bed each morning are ‘I have to…’ rather than ‘I want to…’, I know that it is overstimulation and burn out. 

When we were camping, I realised something a few days in. I was heading down to the showers and I felt like I was on a time limit, even though no one was giving me one. We didn’t have time specific plans that I needed to be back for and I thought at first that I was still in work mode. Only when I was walking back did I realise that I’ve lived constantly with a mobile phone since I moved here 10 years ago. I used to be able to roam the woods during the summer at summer camp without a phone and have time off completely unplugged. We had radios for emergencies and planning across the camp but when you had time off, you were radio free and able to drift for two hours, the night off, or weekend without checking in before the expected time. People knew when to expect me places and no disasters arose from not being contactable 24/7.

 Riotflower's Realm 
I need to claw back the autonomy from the traceability that we have come to expect and rely on. I also need to shake the feeling that I am always behind or trying to catch up. A few things I am going to be doing over the next few weeks or months:

1. Getting back off facebook. I slipped on for planning something in May and have felt obligated to check it a few times a week since. 

2. Saying NO to the ‘I need to…’ and ‘I should…’ thoughts even if they’re ones I place on myself. Aside from chores, I will not do the things I feel like I need to do (if I feel like I ‘have to’ blog or make a particular thing by a specific time, then it’s probably an indication that it is not bringing me joy but becoming an unnecessary burden).

3. Leave work on time whenever possible and leave it at the door. 

4. Sleep or rest when I feel like my body wants it. If my brain will not calm, I will do gentle yoga or lay down and read. Taking care of myself after work or on the weekends is not ‘failing’ to do something productive. This is a deeply engrained habit/thinking pattern I’m still working to undo from my Ph.D.

5. Reduce the clutter-stimulation in my world: no social media (read instagram), googling or mindless scrolling of pinterest before 8am, or after 6pm. Times may be adapted. Do not play phone games that stress me out, while also working to not be wound up about whatever games I am playing. 

6. Use airplane mode on my phone more often. Evenings when I am home, during the day at work (mentioned to Honey first so she knows I am not in danger if trying to contact me), and perhaps all weekend? 

7. Work towards the goal of separating books from my phone or iPad, or at least seeing it as a digital book reader (airplane mode should help).

Blooming Aloe

In the middle of June (19th), as I stood washing dishes, I noticed a snakelike head (or rather, more asparagus-like) amongst the leaves in our large aloe plant. When my brain caught up, I realised it was finally flowering! I received this plant as a very small baby around (2008 or 2009) and it has given off many baby shoots as it slowly grew. We diligently re-potted them and since 2012 it has sat in the kitchen windowsill. It must now be at maturity (said to take around 4 years) and settled into its current location.   

This is the bloom on 2nd July.