February has been a funny month in our house – and that’s funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha!

Ian and I have gone on a health kick. I will freely admit that this has been spurred on by the insidious onset of middle age. Ian and I are both aged 43 and beset by the beginnings of middle-aged spread, as well as creaky joints.

As older parents, we are very conscious of being able to keep up physically with our young, energetic offspring, as well as being keen to still be around when they eventually have children of their own (although on this score, I don’t fancy our chances – I had my last baby at 39, and if my kids delay parenthood too, there won’t be any grandchildren until Ian and I are about 80).

Actually, on my part the health kick was prompted by a visit to the doctor, due to feeling tired and run down. Having listed my symptoms, the doctor considered me thoughtfully and then announced that in her view I was pre-menopausal. Now, I’m not overly attached to having my period – in fact I’ve always advocated that women should have a switch they can flick to “off” after having finished their child-bearing years. However, I did feel slightly put out that my body has apparently decided to shut up shop from a hormonal perspective.

My revelations came at about the same time Ian decided that he would like to compete in a 100 km bike race from Rotorua to Taupo, which takes place at the end of March. Coincidentally, at this time I was busy editing Kerri Tilby’s article on Pancake Tuesday and Lent. Prior to reading this article, I had never really understood what Lent was about, but for Ian and I it seemed like the opportune time to give something up….and that something was wine!

Over the years we have fallen into a comfortable habit of sharing a bottle of wine each evening during and after dinner. Whilst very pleasant, I am willing to concede that this is a major contributing factor to middle aged spread!

We have a number of friends who choose to give up alcohol each February, after the Christmas festivities and summer holidays are over. For us, Lent fell at exactly the right time, and gave us 40 days to get healthier.

As part of our health kick we have moved into a “fresh is best” eating phase. Earlier in the summer we planted our first ever veggie garden with the kids. With the active help and advice of the grandparents, we now have a verdant area of veggies that includes lettuce, spinach, silverbeet, pakchoy, spring onions, beans, radishes and beetroot.

In addition, we have the kiddies’ favourites – strawberries, peas, and Cape gooseberries (does anyone remember them from when they were kids?). These little bushes grow like wildfire and seem to provide an endless supply of gooseberries for little cherubs to pluck at their leisure.

Do you know what astounds me? It’s so easy to grow veggies!! For a minimal amount of effort (combined with regular watering) you can have access to fresh vegetables, picked just minutes before you eat them. The children think it’s wonderful and now fight for the “privilege” of being the veggie picker each evening for dinner.

Although we only have a small veggie patch (about 1.5 x 3 metres) we have managed to create an oversupply of green leafy veggies – in fact, if I eat much more lettuce or pak choy, I may turn into a bunny rabbit!

As well as being healthy, educational and fun, the garden is also keeping our grocery bill down this summer – we haven’t bought anything green for weeks! (apart from cucumber). Ian is so enamoured with our small version of “the Good Life” that he has been sketching out plans to build some raised veggie beds in the back garden.

This is all rather amusing – I hadn’t thought about it until I started writing this editorial, but no doubt our nascent interest in gardening is another hallmark of middle age!

I can feel a “Gardening with Kids” section coming on…


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Kerry Burridge is mum to three great kids and was Kiwi Families founding Editor.

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