We’re really excited about this new series of posts where we’ll talk to some inspiring mums and dads about their great kiwi families! This week’s mama is Becky Cashman. She’s a originally from the big ol’ US of A but now calls Kerikeri home. She’s crazy for the outdoors; her family; totally believes in sustainable living; and is the creator of Goodbye Ouch, Goodbye Sandfly, and Goodbye Nits (eep – two of my very least favourite bugs!). Here’s a bit more about Becky.
Let’s start with telling us a bit about you – what do you do and what are your interests?
I am a product maker. If I say I’m a natural product maker, you won’t know if I’m a natural at product making or I make natural products. Perhaps I should say I’m a natural natural product maker, because that is true. What started as a bit of fun custom blending my clients’ massage oils, has become the foundation that supports our family. It wasn’t a direct route. I started formulating my first natural products 16 years ago, mostly as a complement to my massage therapy clinic. We did not become a family business until 4 years ago, taking a long route through the opening and closing of a massage therapy clinic, births and post natal depression with my two children, several years of chronic pain and approximately 12 house moves.
The depth of me as a product maker comes from the depth of my journey. I think that’s true for all of us. We each bring our whole story to the work we do.
I came to Queenstown 18 years ago because of a lovely Kiwi man, John, who is now my husband. We had worked as river guides together in Nepal and I quite liked him. Turns out he quite like me too, and we’ve been married for 13 years. While I did have the bug for travel, and there was a lot of world to see beyond Little Rock, Arkansas, it really never occurred to me that if you fall in love with a man from another country, there will be big decisions ahead. I was an adventure girl, and thought it was all grand fun… until I had kids that is. Then I realised that my decision to marry a Kiwi and live here meant that my children did not get to grow up with my family. This was the fuel for two post-natal depressions, and the realization that nature can get me through pretty much anything. This is why I teach about nature as a force, for both wisdom and healing. It’s a kind of earthy spirituality.
Tell us a bit about what makes your family great.
Helena (9) and Isaac (6) are very happy to take visitors on a tour of our property, pointing out and offering all the things there are to eat. I love watching them introduce people to edible plants, outrageous flowers and friendly chickens. I like their matter of fact presence, often bare foot, that shows how much they are part of the place that grows our food and them. I love hearing their explanations about what we do and why.
What your family’s favourite thing to do?
We have a 23’ sailboat called Sea Bond, and we all love getting out into the Bay for weekends. However, kid dinghy sailing and regattas and swim training and carnivals and kid hockey training and games mean that most weekends are already claimed.
We’ve learned to plan ahead and mark out weekends for family sailing. It’s not that it’s so idyllic and we all get along. Being on a small sailboat quite amplifies what is happening in a family. You can’t get away from each other and often the first day is filled with squabble and drama. Then, somewhere along the way, we harmonize a bit better. I think of it as family yoga, sitting with the stuff that’s uncomfortable so that you can work through it instead of burying it. John wonders whether it would be a bit easier if the kids had a bit more space as they hardly fit in the forward berth. Sounds like a campaign to get a bigger boat to me.
Our feature at the moment is ‘sustainable families’ – what does you family do to be sustainable?
Through all of our moves and good times and busy times and down times, we have always shared our desire for lots of time recreating outdoors and our commitment to be part of an answer to our world’s needs. This is reflected in the decisions that we’ve made to live as we do now. First of all, we decided to STOP moving, and as of 3 years ago, we parked up on a beautiful, rich volcanic soil property in Kerikeri. We have prioritised being on a property that allows us to partner with the earth, growing vital biodynamic food for our family. We wanted our kids to grow up knowing where they came from and with a connection to the earth that sustains all of us.
Growing our own food serves on so many levels. It gives me a reason to be working outdoors every single day, which both keeps me fit and smooths me out. My energy from a day of computer time really does rely on those evenings in the garden and taking care of the animals. This time deepens my sense of kaitiaki. It also highlights the value of what we eat. Believe me, if you milk a goat every morning, it’s a pretty quick step to valuing the gift. It makes gratitude very natural.
What I love about running a property in this way is that it allows for so much learning. This summer has been about lacto-fermentation. I’ve now made sauerkraut, peach chutney, tomato salsa, green beans, olives, beetroot and even banana fermentations.
The biggest challenge for our family was our decision to take responsibility for the meat we eat. This has meant raising and killing our own animals. With two kids and such a small property, every animal is named and loved. In fact, each animal has a different relationship with each of us. This has made for very involved conversations about commercial meat production, being a vegetarian, and our responsibilities as caretakers. So far, after 3 years, none of us has become vegetarians, although we are still a work in process. We acknowledge the animal each time we have a meal by calling them Stella Burgers or Ben Sausages. We feel the gift of their lives.
What advice would you give anyone who wants to start making their family like a bit more sustainable?
Just by saying you want to make your family more sustainable, you have already taken the hardest step. Let your interests guide you, instead of the “shoulds” of life. There are a thousand ways to reflect your decision. Which one excites you the most? This summer I got excited about fermentation. I started talking to local people, and supplemented their input with surfing the internet. I was absolutely blown away by all the mommy bloggers who are not only fermenting, but taking the time to document it so we can follow along. We have such a great opportunity to learn from each other. When you choose to learn more about what excites you, you will create the momentum to sustain you. Learning and changing is fun if you allow it to be.
This year is election year – what changes could the government make that would make a difference to your family?
Whooo, I could get in trouble about this, but here goes. Our government is still largely a commodities government. It makes decisions that support centralized control and proposed agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that threaten very basic sovereignty.
For example, our government is in the process of restructuring the Resource Management Act (RMA) so that regional authorities do not have the power to regulate themselves when it comes to some activities in their area. There has been a lot of grassroots efforts in the districts to apply a precautionary statement for handling genetically modified organisms (GMO). If the changes to the RMA proceed, the central government will not allow these GMO statements to stand. This is a real setback for the majority of New Zealanders who would like to be GE free.
I would like to see our government prioritise the inherent value of life by creating structures and applying funds to support access and understanding about good vital food and clean water. We have so much to celebrate in New Zealand, and there’s so much more work to do. With a visionary and more sustainably oriented government we could be a world model for earth stewardship.
So there we are: our very first Great Kiwi Family. Thanks so much to Becky for sharing some things about her life and her family with us. If you know a family that would make a great profile in this series, do let us know!