Rachel loves to come and visit my blog just to see my garden. She knows what a mixed blessing having a garden is: hard work to create appropriate microclimates, more hard work to maintain it, and just as much effort to save the excess produce for less bountiful times. For all my regular readers, you will know that my family's garden is an indispensable part of our daily life, as it is for most of our neighbours, given the rural setting we dwell in.
Rachel's recent focus on home gardens has inspired me to reveal a few things about myself that will put a lot of the things I write about in my posts in perspective.
- My husband is an avid gardener, orchardist and hunter. If I were in charge of running the garden, I'd have planted flowers (like I did when I was living alone). Of course, I respect his efforts and put everything he plants and grows into full use. But the fact remains: he does all the heavy-duty work. I am merely his whinging assistant.
- When I'm at work, I'm known as "the English professor". You will probably have guessed (correctly) that I don't like to make a great deal of fuss over such a daunting title, but the fact still remains, I teach in an academic environment.
- For 20 hours a week (of which 3 are spent teaching, while the rest are spent proof-reading, translating, marking student work and preparing class work), I am remunerated (with 17 years of teaching experience in Greece behind me, not including 3 years of teaching similar students in New Zealand) with the princely sum of 653 euros (nett, inclusive of family benefits as a mother of two young children - I told you Greek salaries are very low), despite the fact that ...
- ... I'm one of a very small number of highly qualified English teachers in the whole of Hania, even though there are about 70 private English language schools operating in the area. I'm extremely good at my job, something that gives me great confidence, a most enviable quality in the present unstable economic climate. This is not taken into account in the salary I am paid, but I've never tried using this asset to my advantage.
- The tips of my fingers and the outer rims of my fingernails are usually a shade of brown, in contrast to my pale olive skin. This is usually from digging up weeds in the garden, harvesting crops, cleaning greens meticulously, and chopping greens to make green pies. No matter how much you scrub, the stains will remain unless you wear gloves, and I can't stand the feel of plastic on my hands. It may sound unseemly to be unmanicured given my academic background, but I remember my academic years in New Zealand in similar vein - some of my professors wore flip flops when they came to lecture us on topics ranging from the morphology of the English language to syntax and semantics (and some of them did not have smooth heels). One came barefoot in the summer, and wore flip flops in the winter. (The only time I can keep my fingers clean are in the summer when they spend a lot of time in seawater; in the winter, I need to be bedridden.)
- My children's clothes are mainly second-hand. They have been given to us by extended family members who like to buy their children new clothes in the latest fashion every season. The average number of previous wearers of my children's clothes is 2 (before they start wearing them).
- I hoard jars. If I didn't hoard jars, I wouldn't be able to make my six-month supply's worth of tomato sauce, preserved olives, jams and fruit preserves. Like Rachel mentioned, if I find that, on opening a preserve, mold has formed on the top, I simply scrape it off. The rest of the preserve is used. If I didn't bother to take the time to preserve/freeze/use whatever we grow,..
- ... we would be spending another 50 euro extra a week on food shopping. Green 'smashed' olives in brine cost at least 5-6 euro a kilo (that will last a week in this house), stamangathi wild greens also cost 5-6 euro a kilo (we have substituted this with our own brocoli and cauliflower this year), and I have already used half the jars of preserved tomato that I made in the summer (that works out to about about 2 euro a week on tinned tomatoes). This doesn't include the frozen meals I prepare for when I'm too busy to cook a meal for the next day: I simply throw a tin of boureki, or moussaka, or pastitsio, or papoutsakia, or dolmadakia, or spinach pie from the freezer into the oven, let it cook, and try my best to remember to turn off the oven before I go to bed. This would add at least another 5 euro a week to my savings. (Because I save so much money on grocery bills, I never skimp on books and DVDs from Amazon; I feel I deserve it.)
- I do not recycle tetrapaks, plastic bottles and other recyclable household refuse, because my local council has not endeavoured to provide a recycling bin in my neighbourhood (even though there are such bins available in similar neighbourhoods. I feel I am justified in putting the blame on them. I do not feel that it is my duty to fill the car with recyclable trash (risking milk carton spills, tuna can smells, etc) to cart them off to another bin elsewhere. Most people in Hania are able to walk from their home to a nearby collection point to chuck out their recyclable trash. I do not feel obliged to drive my garbage to a bin; it defeats the purpose of a cleaner environment. I do recycle paper (I never buy my kids drawing pads), and I never, ever throw out my kids' unwanted toys or (second-hand) clothes: I take them to a church collection point or give them away. My cleaning lady (I couldn't write if I didn't have one of those coming in every two weeks) told me how grateful she was for the two huge bags I gave her which she took with her to Moldova when she recently visited her family.
- I never wear make-up.