Eating Our Feelings

A Practical Guide to Navigating Former and Future Feelings and Realities

Getting divorced was one of the greatest things to happen to me in my entire adult life. My ex is happily rid of me and ensconced in a new life. My heart yearns for his happiness, as it always did, perhaps more even, than I worry about my own joy. The difference now being, I am not in any way responsible but very supportive from a distance. Probably should be slightly more of a distance, but that’s always been a challenge for me. I am somewhat prone to smothering or completely ignoring people. Hot or Cold. On or Off. I struggle with finding a middle ground, but it is a struggle I am making huge strides at winning.

This is the three of us on the Star Trek cruise March 2020. Steve had an inside state room and we had a slaying suite… he’s a generous hobbit my ex husband 🥰

Since the split, I am healthy, happy, completely unmedicated and I certainly don’t crawl into a bottle or engage in destructive behaviours with the vim and vigour I once did.  The days of seeking validation and running in circles at sonic speeds trying to fix everything and anything that fell into my vision are long put to rest.  These days life is about true and fulfilling connections, healthy boundaries, incredible gratitude, and modeling health and grace not chaos and confusion to my kids and step kids.

Ouch that was a lot, it get’s lighter from here though so stick with me.

From day dot of hooking up with my future husband Damon he was briefed in no uncertain terms on the fact that my first husband was, despite being a royal pain in the ass at times, probably the only person on this planet I truly trusted and would almost certainly remain my BFF.  This is generally not a problem, although occasionally confounds him as I tolerate basically zero shit from absolutely everyone else these days, and Phteven is free to be his most authentic (and occasionally infuriating) self, whatever that may look like at any given time. 

Writing that down, I really am filled with gratitude for both my former and future husbands.  They could not be more different and I am so proud of them both and honoured to be watching their journeys into our autumn years.  They are both incredible dads, brilliant in their own way, and they are both inherently kind in a world where there are far too many unkind people doing unkind things.

Damon is the only person I ever dated that my kids met in that capacity (their mom’s boyfriend).  He has been made to feel incredibly welcome and is infinitely appreciated for his domestic and interpersonal skills.  Even Phteven is loath to find much fault in the spunky former monk.  I had a moment of cold feet thinking about the permanence of matrimony and was quickly told to pull my head out and “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”  Even Stephen is well aware that I am punching above my weight in so many ways.  Damon is a dedicated and doting darling who I’ve been sharing my life with for nearly three years now.  Husband number two (in July we hope) is an emotionally intelligent, fiercely loyal, delightfully dedicated and doting partner indeed.  Husband number one is often available to advise husband number two how to navigate the storms I can conjure up, as despite being in a pretty great space, I am still occasionally a hair trigger away from being a traumatized and terrified child conditioned to self-destruct.  

The three of us talk nearly every day.  Here’s the actual toolkit we use to keep communication open and flowing.  We have a DM chat group called “eating our feelings” that has been our main go-to point since the three of us headed off on the Star Trek Cruise through the Caribbean back in February 2020.  

Why is this so important?  Because it is a transparent and purpose built chanel for the three of us to discuss everything from childcare to challenges, from finances to feelings, from work to jerks at work, we discuss it all.  Damon and Steve are the very picture of calm objectivity and planning and I bounce in and out of the chat asking questions that have already been answered and injecting my typical(ly annoying) Dee cheer and cheekiness to grown up conversations. 

Communication is key.  The lack of clear communication and grace was a huge factor in our marriage ending.  Nobody is squarely to blame, we just lost each other a long time ago and no matter how we tried we could not find our way back.  Steve and Dee were a freakishly strange but formidably effective force for change and hope.  We were also a bit of a mess for most of our time together.  Moving forward toward a future where we are all connected but heading in our own empowered directions, this little thread has been one of the single most important places online or IRL I exist.  

This week, as a birthday gift, my beloved and brilliant ex-husband has undertaken the mammoth task of getting us officially divorced, as it is one of only two things I asked for from anyone anywhere for my 44thbirthday.  He’s been rushing around finding yellow paper to print on, organizing a JP to witness, and generally being a small but perfectly formed document printing machine. 

Marrying Steve was absolutely one of the best things and greatest adventures anyone on earth could ever possibly imagine being a part of.  He is a royal pain in the ass, a grumpy misanthrope and is, was and will forever be one of my most favourite people on this planet.  I am very excited to be flitting off to Rarotonga in July where he will happily hand my crazy cute self over to Damon to have and hold forever, as equals who are ferociously focused on working on ourselves, our farm, family, fulfilling friendships and our relationship.  Contentment eludes us if we don’t do the work, but it is so fucking worth the effort.

I gotta say, I feel like I am simultaneously living the happiest fathomable ending and beginning, and it’s all coming in fairly hot on the heels of a horrific state of anxiety and depression that nearly ended me. 

Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you can glean a bit of hope to keep going and fight for your freedom and demand a life that you feel safe and seen in.  Life is not meant to be perfect, but it can be so much better if you cancel shit that is toxic or you’re done with, and you focus on a future that is full of possibility and hope.  Boundaries, communication, and knowing you are truly fucking worthy of comfort, clarity and clear communication.  You get it. You get those good things because you deserve them.  

We all do.

So much Love and thank you so much for reading.

April Showers

We are at the farm and it is wet.  Not overly miserable, as the wind is gentle and the rain only falls in large bursts occasionally.  The plants are so happy as the moisture mostly meanders from the sky in a melancholy mist and has plenty of time to be soaked up by thirsty roots rather than just washing away in surface floods.  

I adore autumn.  It is my favourite season everywhere on this earth.  From New York city’s central park to the Swiss Alps, Gatineau’s or Appalachian ranges.  Autumn does not signal the end of anything to me, it is a time of pregnant possibility, crisp apples picked right off the branch, leaves that litter forest floors and most magnificently fruiting bodies of mycelia more commonly known as mushrooms.  Autumn is my happy place and it is tough to catch me in a bad mood this time of year.  You’ll find me irritatingly chipper most days as the sun sinks lower in the sky and feijoa fall from heavy branches.  

The only day in the Southern Fall you will find me miserable is the 28th of April. It is the day I was born 44 years ago in Edmonton Alberta to a farming and oil drilling family who did not like me then and are inextricably estranged from me now. A decision I did not take lightly and have genuinely never regretted. I’ve carved out a new existence focusing completely and tirelessly on social and environmental justice and taken the trauma of my terrible childhood and turned it into care and concern for mother earth and being a champion for the underdog, as it was champions who saved me and placed me on the path that I am now firmly moving forward on.

Today is the 20th and tomorrow I take my youngest miracle (James) on a birthday trip to Taranaki then Wellington then home to Auckland on the 22nd of April which is his 8th Birthday and Earth Day.  He is obsessed with airplanes, and therefore I booked us on an ATR and Q300 as this was his greatest wish to fly on them as he watches YouTube videos over and over again.  I am keenly aware of the effect of aviation carbon and blessed to be working peripherally with many electric aviation pioneers and securely ensconced with carbon divestment and sequestration projects throughout Aotearoa and the world.  I pick my battles bravely and am bold in my resolve to be a part of a solution to restore balance in our delicate ecology and hope that my children will continue the work we have started.

As you will clearly already realise, my first marriage ended some years ago, as did my public appearances as the High Priestess of Electrification of Transport.  Since then new friendships have blossomed and old have been fortified as I embark on my second marriage and new career as the co-founder of Matakana Off-Grid Retreat and Experimental Farm.  

These 50 acres of Matakana Clay have saved my world weary soul.  My fiancé and biggest fan Damon has nursed me back from the brink and together we have loved and learned our way through thousands of daily decisions to improve the whenua, plant trees, nurture bees, and create off-grid experiences for guests of all kinds.  

Our Wedding has been cancelled and rescheduled at least four times already, so we will elope to Rarotonga in July and host a festival style wedding reception on the farm on November 5th.

April 30th was set to be the day of the wedding, but more covid outbreaks and countless close calls have meant we down-scaled the wedding and have arranged a catered gathering for around 50 of our closest friends and collaborators on the project.  Here we will let the world see our newest tourist offering, a stunning safari tent designed only for couples to come and recharge and digitally detox amidst the birds and the bush overlooking the incredible predator and pest free island/motu of Little Barrier/Hauturu.  Having her peaks in clear view places our paradise directly on the NorthWest wild link and we have already seen an increase in native birdlife and met some taonga species including Tuna(eels) and Koura(crayfish) in our streams.  

Healing my very broken heart alongside this land has been an honour and adventure that I relish every single day.

We are only getting started, and this is the second year of our focused efforts to restore and regenerate the land and its natural ecology.  Soon Kiwi birds will be returning to the mountains around the corner from this place, and that means our predetor and pest control efforts need to be focused and fiercely administered, so that, Rangi and Papa willing, we might one day have the furry little flightless birds visit us in this place.

If you are a Rodney local interested in sustainability and eco-tourism, we would be absolutely honoured to hear from you soon, and perhaps welcome you on April 30th for our first official event.  I popped in to see the team at the Te Manuhiri headquarters and am hopeful that some of them will be visiting us soon as working with local Iwi is one of my most fervent goals.  I have so much to learn about the language and the Kaitiaki and Rongoa that has been passed down for generations, and am determined to listen to any advice or collaboration considerations I’ll be honoured to receive. 

Have a lovely day wherever you are on this earth, and thank you so much for reading.

Nga Mihi

Dianna (Dee) Birchfield-West

Rebecca and Ray of Rakiura

Only have an hour to get this blog from my brian, to the laptop, edited, posted and shared.  Damon is working this morning, facilitating some meetings.  Soon he will arrive with a rented trailer to haul the furniture from the garage at our rented house in Pt. Chev to deliver to the glamping tent.  We also scored outdoor bamboo set we picked up for a cool couple hundy at habitat for humanity Re:store down in Mangere.  That will go on the huge deck at the treehouse, which is our main source of income while we’ve both dedicated ourselves full time to this new farming/ecotourism venture.

Part of the plan was and is to connect with people who care about nature and find ways to actively engage in Tiaki.  

How do we do this?

We travel.  We chat.  We listen.  We learn.

Today I am going to tell you about two wonderful wahine we met last week while we were in Rakiura.  

Ray and Rebecca are long time Rakiura residents and both feisty and fabulous human beings.  Ray has had her beautiful home on the motu (island) since 1986.  She moved permanently in the 90’s to the island with her Scottish husband Roddy, who was clearly the Love of her life.  Rebecca moved from the mainland when she was 7 years old.  She’s got a young son and a couple of stepkids growing up in the grandeur and isolation only gifted to children lucky enough to exist in such a pristine, safe, and wild environment.  

I’ve been thinking about them both since we left a few days ago and have been struggling to package in my brain how to share just how magical they both are and how profoundly impressed I am by both of them.

Let me start with Ray.

Ray is a healthy, feisty, funny and fabulous septuagenarian who manages a bed and breakfast overlooking golden bay on Rakiura.  Her large home has hosted hundreds, perhaps thousands of travelers from all over the world.  Since the pandemic hit, her guest demographic has changed from almost only foreign folks to adventurous kiwis exploring their own back yard.  A completely different situation according to Ray.  The last two years it has been like hosting family.  Foreigners will gingerly ask if they can use the laundry, while kiwis figure it out for themselves and make themselves at home.  Both kinds of visitors are okay by Ray, but she is ready to welcome foreign visitors again.

What struck us most about Ray was her intelligence and humility concerning that intellect.  She was incredibly well read and well-travelled.  Our second night with her we sat on her sheltered second story verandah and raised a glass to her late husband and chatted openly about a vast variety of subjects, from Isreal and Palestine, to the war in Ukraine, conservation, vaccinations, tourism, agriculture… just to name a few of the topics we skimmed that evening.

The next morning at breakfast our chats continued.  She asked if we engaged with our guests to the degree we had chatted, and of course we do not.  She manages her BnB as a host and we are a seamlessly contactless set up where our guests arrive and leave and generally never cross paths with us in person.  I suspect that’s the only way for us to operate as I am a woman of deeply felt and held convictions with no shortage of opinions.  As I said to Ray (and was rewarded with a huge belly laugh from her) “Nobody is ever going to die wondering what I think!”  And that probably wouldn’t be the most relaxing way for most people to enjoy their digital detox or vacation on our beloved farm.  So Ray will host in her way and we will stick to ours.  I will say getting to know her and learning from her nearly four decades of working in tourism (after a career as a latin and classical studies teacher) was in itself worth the trip we took to the deep South.

We also met an amazing woman named Rebecca at her hilltop home and studio in Oban.  We’d just finished a dream day in Ulva island where we ran into our mutual friend and fellow sustainability advocate Tracy.  Damon and I both knew her from different channels in our sustainability careers.  I’ve been wanting to catch up with her for years and years, and she just lived around the corner from me on Auckland’s North Shore, yet we met waiting for a water taxi to Ulva Island in the deepest southern tip of the South Island.  How cool is that? Awesome actually.

So after this epic day of content capturing and canoodling with my fiancé on deserted beaches with not a soul in sight we walked through the golden bay coastal track and wended our way back to the tiny township.

The sun was blazing down that day, and we were tired and thirsty after finishing off the last of the water from our ecotanker vessels.  Damon was done at this point.  I was still buzzing from the birdsong and ease of the day chatting with a wahine toa I had long since respected and got to see in person that day.  We stumbled across Rebecca’s gallery and so we walked in.

We put on our masks and proceeded to snoop around her tidy and beautiful workspace.  Rebecca makes prints of seaweed she collects from around the island.  We bought three small prints that day, and learned about two of her mentors, and I have forgotten both of their names but will ask her on dm later because I am keen to connect with them both.  She called one the “queen of seaweed” and the other “and absolute marine biology legend” and both women have helped her to start her business and flex her creative muscles to further conservation conversations.  

We totally vibed Rebecca and I.  She’s epic cool.  She talked about the joy of childhood on the island where nobody locks their doors and everyone is supportive and the community is connected and safe.  Isolation and the pace of life, where people live withing the tempo of the rythms of nature, is idyllic when told by her.  Her partner is a fisherman and their family enjoy an annual hunt to gather mutton bird (titi) which she said is best boiled twice then roasted.  We will be back to try this delicacy with her or our other friends across the Foveaux strait in Bluff.  

You can meet this amazing woman and her family yourselves soon as they will be on Hyundai Country Calendar in April.  I believe she said they will be airing this episode on April 10th.  At any rate, she impressed me with her talent, her grace and her intelligence.  We agreed together that mycology and seaweed were poised to save us all, and if not humanity at least these two powerful natural forces would clean up the mess humanity has made if we destroy ourselves through war or climate change.  

Yeah, I do not do small talk.  

So, that’s it.

That’s my blog about two beautiful forces of fabulousness I was honoured to connect with.

Many more adventures ahead, and it is such a magical thing to connect with inspiration as we continue our career change and carve out a new path as famers and hosts.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Mā te wā

Maybe

Just a screenshot from a couple of days ago

Dear Reader,

I do not know, nor do I particularly care what your stance on the 23 day “anti-mandate protest” outside Parliament is or was or will be.  

What I cannot help but genuinely care about is you.  Whoever you are,  whatever side of this you were/are on, my concern is for you.  How you are feeling?  How are you coping with the barrage of bad news and divisiveness here and abroad.  I care that you are able to find a space and place to be safe and serene and practice good mental hygiene and find joy amidst such turmoil.  

Of course I still care and am saddened by the situation that swelled.  It started in Alberta, the province where I was born.  My heart hurts and I’ve blocked, muted and removed hundreds of connections for spreading misinformation.  Not because I do or don’t agree with some or much of what anyone says online.  And I certainly do not suddenly hate any of them.  I choose distance because I need to protect my own mental health and need boundaries and borders that keep me safe and firmly and securely rooted and surrounded by reason, science, kindness and tolerance.  

Whoever and whatever those protests were about, there was inarguably far right and even Nazi rhetoric, violence, intimidation and even shit (by that I mean real actual human feces) flinging.  Any of these individually, let alone combined would be reason enough to distance and protect myself from such chaos and so many triggers. 

Don’t think for a moment I don’t appreciate and even relish a good, safe and peaceful protest.  

A 20 year protest from The Greenham women was documented to be what convinced Gorbachev to engage with the West and sign a nuclear disarmament agreement.  Civil rights activism changed the trajectory of countless communities and lives, and is so frustratingly still necessary as divisiveness and hate seems to be gaining steam everywhere these days.  I have definitely lost count of the number of climate change Friday Marches the kids and I attended.  The right to stand up and say “this is important to me!” is something I cherish and will uphold for myself and even for people who disagree with me.  Anti-abortion protestors have as much right to peacefully protest as I (a vehemently pro-choice advocate) do.  

There was no point during these anti-mandate marches that I was even mildly moved to want to support the sentiments being strewn about the place, and more to the point, I really do not now, nor did I ever actually understand what these people were protesting for or against.  Truly.  

The fact that they happened at all is a clear and concerning sign that there is something deeply broken in our society here and at large.  So many people feeling fearful and disenfranchised meant they were drawn to the sense of community and desire to be heard that was organised and administrated by a rabble of conspiracy theorists and scientifically illiterate community leaders.  These leaders actually convinced some in the straggling crowds that tin foil hats were a necessary and reasonable weapon in the their arsenal against “the man”.  There’s clearly something wrong in our world when a situation like that is allowed to erupt.

My fears for humanity and my trepidation toward our government, are far more deeply embedded in my concerns for the state of play of mental health in Aotearoa.  Many of the people left at the tail end of these protests are genuinely unwell and unstable and need/deserve/require tenderness and therapy.  

Now that it is coming to an end, I am left feeling concerned and saddened by the whole messy and emotionally charged situation.

I do not support the protests as I am compliant to the mandates to keep my vulnerable friends and relatives safe as the Pandemic evolves to and Endemic disease.  

I do not want to hate on the protestors, and feel that there is still room for a useful dialogue with some of the more reaonable people from any point on the scale between anti-mandate protestors and those deeply disgusted by the protests.  Maybe?

Or maybe we need to look deeper into the fringes of our society and find ways to reach and teach kindness, tolerance and empower people and communities to avoid rising up and/or voting against their own best interests.  But then, who am I or who is anyone else to say what is in their own or anyone else’s best interest?  

But maybe if we talk about what happened without anger or shame we can reach the people who are hurting.  Maybe the root of the problem is and always was standard of living and the rights we all have to seek and find physical safety and comfort, and to be able to pursue something to do, something to Love and something to hope for.  These are the things that gives us each a sense of purpose and connection in any society.

Maybe it had less to do with freedom and much more to do with fear and frustration?

Maybe we can do better.

Greek Goddess Birthday Blog

Today is the 27th of December here on our beloved Islands of Aotearoa. It’s a big day as a year ago my spunky monk proposed to me on a clifftop overlooking Te Henga on Auckland’s wild west coast. It’s also the anniversary of the death of one of my most admired feminists/artists/goddesses the irrepressible pocket rocket Carrie Fisher.

This blog though, I am going to take a quick moment to wish a very happy born day to a true Greek Goddess, my friend Angela.

I screenshot this… what a beautiful soul and shiny shiny ✨ goddess of Greek decent

Ange is the epitome of grace, beauty, kindness and joy.  She’s always taken the time to read my many meandering blogs, and has been a source of joy and encouragement, sans judgement or side-eyes regardless of how much of a mess I may have been at any moment or over months and months.  

Recently we engaged her through her creative branding/marketing firm Red Spark Creative, to help us to organise a logo and brand story for our new project. She was easy to work with and a joy to collaborate with throughout the project and the elegant final draft of our Logo is beautiful and we will be proud to share it with the world as our brand and narrative evolve.

Our fabulous logo with a Puriri Blossom. We Love it and enjoyed the journey deciding on this logo with Ange and Ross.

Ange doesn’t seek the spotlight and is supportive and sympathic to her loyal tribe of women, some of whom I am lucky enough to know.  She’s always so beautifully put together with absolutely perfect hair and make-up and frequently rocking bright red somewhere in her cleverly coordinated ensembles.  No stranger to struggle, she’s a loving mother, an ideal confidante and a fierce ally for so many hot mess mamas who have been lucky enough to know here over the years.  

I’d like to take a quick moment to let her and everyone know how much it means to have a cheerleader and chum who knows first hand how hard it is to juggle the journey of being a working creative mother, wife and colleague.  Her generosity of spirit and genuine enthusiasm for seeing other people’s joy, coupled with her kindness in dark days is something I wish we could all bottle and imbibe if we need a little boost.  She’s always got the time for me and others and puts herself on the shelf far too often and I just wanted to say publicly it has been a blessing and I am so glad to call her my friend.

So that’s it.  My gushy mushy thank you to Ange for being the gorgeous Greek goddess she is.  Hope to see her IRL soon and give her a squeeze in person to say thanks for everything she’s done and said for so many years.  

Happy Birthday Goddess. Hope you are practicing some radical self care and I hope this reminds you just how much light you bring to some pretty strange times for all of us.

Lots of Love today and always!

Thanks for reading!

Sad But Necessary Endings and New Beginnings

I just got off the phone with Lou, our Nanny/housekeeper/hurricane. She’s a lot is our Lou. And I Love her dearly. She works and plays hard and Loves with the ferocity of that red spot storm on Jupiter that has been raging on for millions of years. Her daughter and my son are in a very real sense siblings and her family will forever be a part of his life as we’ve raised him together and he considers us both to be his safest and most favourite humans. He adores his dad too, but Lou and I take up the biggest parts of that sweet, quirky, chatty, cuddly boy’s heart.

Lou (LoLo) and me a few days after we moved out.

She’s cleared out 20 years of memories and mayhem from the Greenhithe house since we left in rather a rush because my mental health again took priority and we found a rental property in Pt. Chev.  Most of the stuff she’s sorted through is in perfectly good nick, some of it is boxed up in cupboards never opened or touched since being purchased at some tourist stand somewhere on my many adventures.  From Los Angeles to Lima, from Whistler to Whitehorse, Nice to the isles of Greece,  Reno to Rome… I’ve been all over this beautiful planet and now I am settled in, snug as a bug on our island nation of Aotearoa.

I so deeply cherish all the memories and I have a rich tapestry of them to keep me company in my imagination during the very limited down-time I have lately to day-dream. I have known romances, wild rides, adventures, misadventures, friendships, faux pas, and some moments of pure magic. Now I am tired and crave comfort and calm. My circle is small and safe and my focus is on hyper-local and meaningful connections. Miss my old friends, old networks, old life sometimes. But I have been able to maintain wonderful (if not all too infrequent) connections with the true kindred spirits I have found and held space for and over years. There’s always a way to reach people if you really want to connect with them.

Rome aaaaages ago

So, back to the story.  During a conversation Lou, in an attempt to be kind, said she’s proud of me.  Huge trigger.  There is nothing to be proud of, I indisputably barely survived all those years of chaos, people pleasing, attention seeking, binges, battles and heart break.  To be proud of me for walking away from nearly everything I knew, not necessarily because I chose to, but because I had to, is nothing to be proud of anyone for.  It’s an incredibly sad story.  I opened my heart, home, and life to basically anyone and everyone.  The level of Love, trust, and hope I had in so many interactions was ludicrous.  The fact I am even alive today considering the blind faith and trust I had in humanity for most of my life is… well it’s a great source of shame now that my rose coloured glasses have melted off and I am thoroughly broken and jaded.  I have no option anymore but to live a safe and simple life rather than driving myself completely loopy again.  And goodness.  I was loopy.

Today there is less loopy and more healthy and happy.  Incredibly calm and content and I genuinely do not have the bandwidth for drama or shade.  Not every day is a good day, and I’ve had a slight but persistent headache that basically doesn’t go away and has been with me since my second severe nervous breakdown.  Perhaps I did some irreparable damage during the suicide attempt.  Whatever the cause, a slight headache is a small price to pay for the dangerous levels of cortisol and other stress hormones swirling around my brain in the days I was crashing around engaged in the glorification of busy and being seen.

All that travel, excess, and chaos of my former life also resulted in a huge house filled with a bunch of stuff that weighs a person down.  Stuff and ostentatious spaces seem to encourage negativity, gossip and boring or mean people who suck the colour from our canvas.  We were stuck somewhere we are not appreciated or respected and it ate away at your soul and attacked our mind until it got so bad we just had to leave.  

We did.  It’s better.  Not perfect, but better.  

So.  We are all managing new normal and navigating new territories lately it seems.  I am not sure how you feel about or handle all the weirdness that is life these days, but I have noticed that I spend a lot of time feeling torn between my Love/appreciation of people and the fear/exhaustion that comes from human interactions.  I adore people, they are fascinating, and they are so scary.  I am equally scared of the effect I have on people as they have on me these days.  How are you dealing with your stuff?  Are you having less to do with humanity these days too?  Is this a shift that would have happened without the pandemic I wonder?  Who knows how much of any of our new beginnings are our choice or out of necessity.

Anyway.  It’s now been well over a month since we moved into our rental and it is so far from set up still.  It is a new beginning after a sad ending and I am happy that I have the opportunity to pursue new beginnings at all.  

The metaphor of the farm being cleared, planted and nurtured is in total parallel to what’s happening internally.  Because we both (Damon and myself) still have kids between the ages of 7 and 17 who still need us in the city, we need to be based in town for a few more years yet.  The farm is our core and key passion and project, and luckily the kids are at least moderately interested in what we are up to, as they were with the work their dad and I did in building the electric vehicle charging network.

So that’s it.  New city pad, new passion project.  Sad endings and still striving to be the change I want to see in the world, only this time, without placing basically every single person who crosses my path as a priority.  Every day I prioritise only myself and my most important people because that’s all the bandwidth most of us have these days.

Hope you are coping well with whatever sad/happy endings and new beginnings you are navigating.  

Thanks for reading. 

XXOO

Building a Larger Table & Higher Fence

I felt this… but things have changed a bit

I remember posting the “Build a larger table, not a higher fence” themed memes/stickers a lot when I was a fresh faced/wide eyed early adopter in the social media space. That was well over a decade ago, and nothing on earth could have convinced me then that I’d ever be divorced from Steve and striking out on a totally new trajectory and career as a farmer and eco-retreat host alongside a new partner. Then I was completely new to the foreign concept of surplus resource as I’d lived so long as a student or toiling to pay rent and bills like everyone else my age. The stellar success of Serato and now ChargeNet has been a double edged sword in as much as I’m in the unique position that I can actually choose to spend my time and energy on nearly anything I want. Of course that means I want to do something meaningful and important for our society and the planet. The downside? There’s far too many projects and possibilities in the “do something good” pallet I am currently able to paint with. Pretty confident there’s nothing I would rather be doing, nor anyone I’d rather be doing it with though, and that’s brought about a peace and sense of purpose I am grateful for every single day. We still have the odd absolute stinker of a day or dealing from time to time, but mostly, it’s been magic.

So yup, it turns out I clearly function best as a couple, like those cute little binary beings from TNG.

I really couldn’t imagine a better companion, collaborator, cohort or consort than Damon James Birchfield. His almost obsessive passion for detail, governance, form and functionality; combined with my boundless enthusiasm and obsessive need to connect people and weave compelling and accessible narratives have seen this project find feet, a soul and have a life force breathed into it. It’s an honour to be involved, and a privilege to be working alongside so much amazing and skilled local talent. Starting an experimental farm is a great way to get to meet your neighbours and local businesses. Highly recommend. Would reboot my entire lifepath, trajectory and career again without giving it a second thought now that I’m through the nightmare of getting here.

Damon Practicing his skills with the camera

While we have been in mostly splendid isolation, and many of our contractors and invited guests have worked on or studied the farm and whenua on their own terms and in their own time, we’ve been honoured to show our gratitude by providing socially distanced lunches, afternoon teas and picnics. I like feeding people. Always have. Food is joy and I am indeed a huge and loyal fan of joy.

As the strictest of the lockdown conditions begins to wane, we already have four outdoor BBQ/social events this week and a full calendar all the way through well into the new year.  I am strangely terrified and overwhelmed, but also incredibly excited to be face to face with people I admire, respect and definitely enjoy spending time with.  Bring it on.

Since the move to level three for Auckland, while many people were separated by the borders from their friends/family/farms/baches/holiday homes, we were lucky enough to commute up to our farm on weeks the kids were with our exes.  Just gotta take a minute to say:  full ups to my ex, he’s a great dad and a wonderful friend, it has been a pleasure consciously uncoupling!  Our scheduled freedom from child rearing and having our home and farm clearly and completely within the greater Auckland border has allowed us to continue working and watch the farm evolving into an incredibly exciting and fulfilling project.  The fact all the work happens outdoors and social distancing requires little to no effort when you’re meandering around 50 acres of bush block, has meant we have had safe socially distanced laughter and conversation with contractors and colleagues, and the added satisfaction of seeing the project improving before our eyes, and building momentum on and off-line.  

Just like many other tourism operators, we lost three month’s of bookings because of the lockdown. It’s only recently we’ve opened up to host guests who are able to check in contactless and be in splendid isolation at the end of a dirt road with only their bubble in tow. The relaxing of the rules will allow families and friend groups to arrive at the treehouse and enjoy some off-grid magic after being cooped up for our longest and strongest ever lockdown in Tamaki Makaurau. We are booked nearly solid and inquiries continue to roll in which will keep us on our toes for the next few months and more than make up for the loss of income. We did not seek government subsidies, as we are so early into the narrative as a start-up and just finding our feet, so it seemed selfish and unnecessary for us to seek compensation for what is at this point a passion project, but will absolutely evolve into a fully-fledged and self-sufficient social enterprise. I like that blogging is at times a form of manifesting… I really do see this being a beautiful and inspiring situation, experienced and embraced by a vast and varied number of people in a multitude of ways. As our beloved builder Dave said this morning, “This is the change the world needs right now”. Chur Dave. I didn’t think you could have been more my favourite if you tried, but you come up with these gems and continue to do a kick-ass and super slick job and work with us when dozens of other offers come in, and I gotta say, you really remain a top human in my estimation and opinion. Ka pai.

Now, very quickly, I just gotta touch on the down-side to our momentum.  Much to my building annoyance, there’s been people with sticky beaks “getting lost” and poking around our property without any invitation.  Many during full level three lockdown.  Just simply not cricket kids.  I’d go so far as to say the intrusion has left me feeling somewhat unsafe and more than a little frustrated.  So, we will be installing a security gate to curb the enthusiasm of nosey neighbours, and hopefully adding to the safety and seclusion enjoyed by our welcome and honoured guests and many collaborators.  

So that’s it.  That’s today’s blog after another extended sabbatical as I start but seldom finish countless blogs and various content.  We will absolutely be inviting guests, friends and so many more conscious collaborators on site in the months and years ahead.  We are putting in place the infrastructure and resources to host, feed, entertain and educate many honoured guests with food and resources from the farm.  Out table is indeed getting bigger all the time, however, so is our fence.

Thanks for reading.  Get in touch if you want to come up for a visit we’d LOVE to offer you an invitation.  

Killing in the Name Of… Pest Control

Kia Ora! How is Spring treating you wherever you are? Been beautiful and very wet on the farm!

I want to know what other people are doing regarding pest control and how other people process the difficult and confronting task of willingly ending a life.  Are there vegans who engage in pest control practices?  What are the best/worst methods of management?  Is there any new and exciting science or inspiring efforts in this area anyone could shar with me? 

Here’s my blog anyway:

Possums are crazy cute.  They have little hands almost as dexterous as racoons (who I also worship for their cuteness and adaptability) and big, beautiful, nocturnal, marsupial eyes framed by a natural dark smokey frames that would be the envy of even the most iconic make-up artist.  They are soft, fluffy, curious and cheeky.   This is Spring, so many if not most female pouches are replete with even cuter joeys who climb out and hang out with extra cuteness on their mama’s backs.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, possums are causing grave damage to the delicate balance of our native bush, as they are an introduced species with virtually no predators. They devour too much of the same foods as our native bird population and are hungry and can be incredibly vicious to our gentle native fauna.  Rewilding and conservation efforts across Aotearoa, on land and in the sea are integral and I am a passionate supporter of the “predator free 2050” efforts and campaigns that are widely implemented and discussed across our beautiful (and vulnerable) isolated island nation.

So. Possums, along with rats, stotes, cats and a myriad of other introduced and feral species are public enemies and actively trapped and killed from Cape Reinga to Bluff. There’s also major issues with invasive river species (flora and fauna) and larger animals like pigs, goats and even horses and deer. Aotearoa is paradise not only to people, but to many introduced species as well.

Despite not being a religious person, I am deeply spiritual and genuinely respect all life and see every plant, animal, and fungi as a miracle in and of itself.  My new life has turned a hobby farm/lifestyle block into the primary professional and personal project for myself and my fiancé (who I am currently really mad at today, but that’s a conversation for another blog).  The grim task of setting and clearing traps falls on long suffering Damon’s broad and beautiful shoulders, as I am squeamish, sensitive and definitely deserve the allocated descriptor of pampered princess.  I cry over “vermin” regularly.  I am not very good at coping with suffering, my own or any other creatures.  We have to control pest populations and manage weeds as a part of a responsible land management strategy.  I accept this and am serious about investing in and communicating a strategy that addresses pest control on the whenua we are the proud kaitiaki for.

We’ve recently engaged a PhD candidate majoring in conservation to help us with managing the pest population, particularly rats, mice and possums.  We also have hunters regularly trek across the land to bag goats and pigs.  The reason I am writing this blog today is to ask advice for softies and city slickers like myself who know pragmatically that managing the pest populations is incredibly important, and actively seek advice on humane, effective and practical methods and mind-frames.  

Just up the road from our property is the inspiring conservation success story that is Tawharanui.  A predator fenced paradise where strict sanctuary conditions (no pets EVER for example) are observed. Various individuals and organisations including DoC and many conservation efforts band together to manage this project.  The result?  Countless stories from countless friends who have had meaningful encounters with native birds, bush and felt the power of Papatunuku.  I am so incredibly amped by their efforts and success, and would love to engage in a deep and meaningful conversation with someone who is closely involved in the project to learn what it costs, what is requires, and what the trials and triumphs of such a meaningful project are.

So, that’s it.  Come at me with comments and let’s have a conversation about pest control.  I fear that poisoning an 1080 conversations may dominate so can we avoid that rabbit hole as mass poisoning is not a viable option for us as we are willing/able and well-resourced enough to manage pest control through trapping, hunting and  methods that do not currently need to include poison drops, despite my belief that in some cases poison is a cruel but necessary broad stroke as an act of desperation in our fight against predators.  

Wow.  How’s that for ending on contentious note regarding a hot button issue.  It would have been remiss of me to avoid the topic of poison completely, but I do implore you to focus on more fine tuned methods for our small 50 acre project.

Thanks for reading!

Comment, DM or call me.  My Email works but I hate that particular medium so the chances are slim to none that I will respond.  Fairly certain we can have a good chat in the comments section or over Direct Message on any of our platforms if you take the time to share your thoughts.  Take care.

Dee

Life After the rEVolution

… Not to mention the pandemic …

In 43 years on this planet, I have never been happier, healthier, or more content than I am today as I embark on a new career, with a new partner, and a small but perfectly formed handful of trusted friends and allies. Many people have been forced to re-imagine their place on this planet, my changes have been deliberate and very many have been my choice. I was ready for a shake-up anyway, so even having my “wings clipped” has enabled a wonderful new adventure as I explore our beautiful backyard here in Aotearoa.

I’m sharing a bit of my story with anyone willing to read it, after one too many people have recently reached out to me in confidence feeling lost, adrift or uncertain about their future.  

The last two years has seen things change more than most of us could have ever imagined, yet, here we still are, alive and with a new opportunity.  There’s certainly still many challenges ahead of us personally, professionally and as a planet but it’s the perfect time to reflect and decide what you are prepared to do and be to secure your own future happiness and sense of purpose.   

For a solid and seriously exhausting 7+ years, there generally wasn’t a thing on this earth more important to me personally or professionally than encouraging the uptake of electrified transport to secure carbon divestment for our planet and energy independence for New Zealand.

My son (left) and some EV champions/friends Ben and Dave at one of the hundreds of conferences/trade shows I used to host/attend

I was obsessed and ensconced in every aspect of the “rEVolution” and was engaged in some online or real-world Electric Vehicle activity or conversation 7 days a week without fail.  My kids were packed up to roll all over New Zealand and across the planet, watching their weary yet always whirlwind and wild-eyed mother EVangelising the cleaner, kinder, more enjoyable future of transport, and it was ELECTRIC.

An EV driver since 2004, the incomparably improved driver experience in an Electric Car, even at those early stages, fueled my obsession and passion for the movement.  The flames of this fire were further fanned by my certainty about the complete chaos that was about to ensue on this planet as a result of climate change. Every moment felt like I was doing something important, wonderful, fun and fundamentally freeing all of humanity, particularly my beloved Aotearoa, from the bonds of fossil fuels.

Trust me.  Nobody ever benefited from a messiah complex of that magnitude.  All that passion and energy was poured into too many other people’s cups and I found myself used up, disappointed, and exhausted by the pace and I crashed and burned spectacularly.  The movement began to attract all kinds of cowboys and credible champions alike, but it was gaining global momentum while our local network continued to grow in New Zealand.  That kind of growth invites dangerously ambitious and opportunistic people and creates posturing and power plays that my raging ADHD and penchant to speak my mind just could not understand, keep up with, compete with, or control.  Bullies are everywhere, and they tend to form alliances, just the same as passionate and optimistic activists also gain strength and solidarity together.  They don’t win, but they do certainly change the state of play and make authentic change-makers and disruptors have to rethink their strategies.  

Perhaps bullies are an important part of any movement or culture, as they certainly keep their victims and targets on their toes.  That’s a topic and discussion for another day though.  My strategy for the past 2 years has been to completely and confidently weed out any person or situation that has the potential to be toxic to my newfound state of zen. 

There are still plenty of people with different opinions and plans than me.  Diversity, curiosity, respect, trust and admiration are the foundations of the fruitful and fantastic relationships I nurture and enjoy these days.  There is simply no room for anything less.  Life is busy and can be very difficult, only space for gracious and supportive people in my personal life.  It’s a great policy, if you haven’t already put it in place I strongly recommend you try it.

The bygone raging revolutionary days were rewarding, harrowing, terrifying, exhilarating, and it genuinely nearly killed me.  Che sera sera.  It was a wild and wonderful ride, and boy has the world finally started two-stepping in time with the stuff people used to call me crazy for saying/thinking when this all started.  Turns out, you CAN own/use/enjoy electric transport and generation options and benefit the economy and life on earth while you do it.

Cool.  It’s brilliant to know that the movement now has real momentum and will continue to grow and thrive while I disappear onto an experimental farm. I Love people and this planet, but goodness gracious, I am so tired.  The obnoxious EVangelist who would take strangers on a drive or ride in her EV at any and every opportunity has suffocated on her own self-importance and now she really just wants to be left alone most of the time.

By doing so, my carbon and ecological footprint has been made miniscule in comparison.  My mental and physical health has improved immensely, and I want to share knowledge and passion and enable more people to unplug and find their bliss, preferably in a less dramatic and destructive turn of events.  Seriously.  That’s the new purpose and plan.  Slow down and encourage others to do the same.  It’s incredible how good it is on a micro and macro scale.

So here I am starting something totally new and fresh.  After hosting a successful but exhausting international conference and road trip in 2019, my marriage to the co-founder of ChargeNet NZ Steve West finally, publicly and officially ended.  That was the swan song and I sat supportively by his side at several events, while we were struggling and grieving.  To say our marriage ended amicably is an overly simplistic but relatively accurate summary of the dissolvement of what was, in my view, one of the most magnificent, abundantly fruitful, and romantic unions ever.  We were and remain eccentric as individuals and we were unstoppable as a team. We are both much happier as it became abundantly clear toward the end that our crazies were too terrifically unmatched to ensure a stable union.  

The grief and growth that followed was life changing. I mic dropped every aspect of my involvement as “the high priestess of electrification” so I could recover from the complete nervous breakdown that had resulted after years of pushing myself to the absolute limits in every possible sense. 

It is now 2021.  Our kids have settled into our shared new life.  Steve and I have stable and much more suitable new partners, and I will be marrying Damon Birchfield at an autumnal farm wedding in Aotearoa early next year.

So that’s how I ended up happily ensconced and embarking on a whole new trajectory.

It is my firm and ardent belief that there is still hope for all of us, including the biodiversity on this planet.  It is also my unequivocable observation that we need to change as a society and as individuals or we probably won’t like what we are left with as a result. However I will not spend the last part of this blog scaremongering on a doom’s day scenario. Rather than that, I’d like to echo some of the brilliant and meaningful advice that bounces off the walls of the ecologically minded echo-chambers I seem to frequent lately.

We can still slow our trajectory towards irreversible climate change but time is running out and fast – something needs to give. I have some ideas about what we can do and be as we enter the next decade.

We can encourage re-wilding and regeneration and do so in a sustainable way that encourages steady and manageable economic and infrastructure growth.  We can be healthier.  We can have a world with more transparency, justice, accountability and a stronger sense of community.  We can have cleaner water, air and communities.  We can have carbon neutral or even carbon negative energy and transport options.  That means you’ll need to change your mindset, embrace the bike or maybe even hike to the bus or train stop and actively ask for electric infrastructure from your governments.  You and your voice can and will change the world, if you are ready to do the best with all you know, and when you know better do better.

Seriously.  We can do this. You can.  I can.  We can.  And we will.  Together.

Appreciation Blog Written for an Aloof Goof

Meditation moment by the campfire 🔥 wearing the scarf 🧣 I crocheted 🧶 for him

I think most successful relationships need to have what our therapist calls “the bank account” topped up frequently with actively thinking about elements of appreciation and respect for the other. None of us are perfect, and the more we know each other and the more entwined we become as friends or partners, the more likely we are to take people for granted. I’m writing this homage of Love and appreciation, between working on our new business and wedding planning. I hope it gives you pause to think about some of the people closest to you with fondness on this rather grey Monday. Maybe even give yourself a little homework and tap out a few words of appreciation for someone close to you today. Could be a family member, a dear friend, your partner or maybe even your pet. There’s a healing and uplifting quality to actively expressing and acknowledging gratitude.

He’s always keen to get into the water.

So let me tell you about my aloof goof.

Damon is a creature of great depth and empathy. Also, incredibly cool, bordering on a bit of a snob concerning things like food, wine, coffee, and music. He knows how to manscape (he’s actually an incredibly beautiful human specimen), and he is brave – not afraid to speak up and be counted in professional and personal circles. He’s a good person to have in your corner if you find yourself in a pinch or needing a champion if you’ve fallen on hard times or feel put upon. He knows highs and lows in his own narrative, which makes him much more adept at feeling true empathy when others struggle. He’s actually also a great person to have around if you’re on a winning streak of any description. I’ve seen it time and again, he’s quite likely to kneel himself down to help lift someone up and ensure you get the shine they earned. It’s a pretty great and honest superpower to be as gracious and genuine when the people he admires and respects do well. It’s a Kiwi thing to be humble, something I’ve not really been able to embrace even after nearly three decades here. He’s 5th-7th generation New Zealand (Pakeha) and both sides of his family are fascinating and have had incredible influence on the cultural, economic, and general landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand. Not always in a good way. Some of them are very colourful characters indeed.

He’s also a glorious goof.  He’s got the quintessential kiwi dry humour punctuated, almost embarrassingly often with puns and dad jokes.  It’s the right brand for him, as he is often viewed as incredibly earnest and can make people mildly uncomfortable with his pensive and serious expression as he floats off into what his friends and colleagues call his “spaceship” where he ponders information deeply and thoroughly.  It can be mildly intimidating to see him in this state, so the goofy side slices through that effectively.

So why all this gratitude on a seemingly unremarkable Monday? Well, he’s started writing again. We both have. We are born storytellers and wordsmiths, and I daydream of us growing old together as a much more vanilla version of a spectacularly creative couple of story tellers: Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen. They were the real deal and both the artist and muse to each other at various stages of their tumultuous union. Our union is not tumultuous. I have had enough tumult, I will take calm and communicative coupledom at this stage.

Leonard and Marianne

Leonard and Marianne spent a lot of time in the Greek isles, where Damon and I will one day settle in for an extended writers retreat and leave the world and technology behind for some matter of weeks.  He already lived there for a few years, it is where he met his rather remarkable, intelligent, fierce and statuesquely beautiful first wife.  She’s a thriving entrepreneur and impressive industry mogul in mindfulness and wellbeing now.  They have a respect and ease in each other’s company that seems to be appreciated by their two now adult children.  

Damon and I daydream and discuss often about returning to Greece, or somewhere equally packed with character and history, the way artists did in a bygone era.  We’d live simply and offline in total anonymity.  We’d recharge our souls and let our creative genius flow while we feast on Mediterranean oils and drink local wines.  We will nap, snack, and walk, meditate, and be blissfully wrapped up in each other for as many weeks as we can manage before needing to return to our children and the farm we are nurturing together.  It will be a beautiful thing to behold.  

So writing.  Writing has become a big part of our culture.  He and I have, as in just about everything, a very different style when we write, as we do when we cook, he cleans (I do not consider myself a cleaner).  With the writing, we both type 80+WPM and the tapping of the keyboards when we are on a roll creates a rhythmic hum in our space.  He ponders, and pauses, considers and changes up his work as he goes.  Words explode from me and land hodge-podge on the page and then I get him to help me clean it all up and give it some order.  So far a system that seems, more or less to be working.  

That’s probably enough words and gratitude for and about the aloof goof for one day.

Now I will hand this over to him to edit and post it before we both have phone calls with magnificent women we know and respect at 3pm… both named Megan.  Funny little coincidence among countless coincidences that seem to pop up in our stories daily.

Have a great week, and get out there and be grateful for your own glorious goofs, whoever they are.