Do children go hungry at school? Sometimes, yes.

It's a... pet peeve of mine, I guess.

Food at schools.

Students in New Zealand schools don't, generally, get food provided to them - not in a way Nordic countries feed kids. Everyone tends to bring their own lunch, packed in a box or a bag or whatever, and kids eat whatever they brought along from home.

Low decile schools, ie schools where students' parents tend to earn little money (decile 10 are top earners 90-100%, decile 1 are low earners 0-10%, etc), they tend to have some government funding or council funding to make sure that kids get at least some food, so the schools provide kids with a piece of fruit in the morning, or some milk to drink - stuff like that.

But still. It's a pet peeve of mine.

My kids eat well because... I pack food which I think is good for them.

But not everyone does. Not everyone has the means, even. Some lunchboxes I've seen in The Kid's school, I've thought, man, I wish the lunch doesn't look like that every day...

Recently a program on Radio New Zealand National introduced this problem through two videos, and I think they're worthwhile seeing.

To anyone reading this from Estonia or other Nordic countries, where you may not have even heard about an approach like that... let's just put it that way, seeing this video may make your eyes widen.

When private landowners treat their land like national parks, and protect them forever

Me and The Man attended a fascinating public talk last night, presented by Jesse Bythel from QEII National Trust.

(That we ended up attending at all was a coincidence - the babysitter who sometimes watches our children/house in the evening so me and The Man can have a date night, she couldn't come on her usual evening. We proposed, okay, how about Monday evening?

Monday evening suited her well. We scrolled through various calendars of the city to figure out where to go on a Monday, and this event was one of the very few, so we thought, okay, let's go check it out. AND I'M SO GLAD WE DID!

Because here's what QEII National Trust is - a concept I had never heard of before, though I did think there would be setups similar somewhere, just not sure how they'd work exactly.)

You have probably heard of National Parks that are reasonably common throughout the world. They are publicly owned, protected lands which (though managed and developed to an extent) remain very close to their natural state, therefore allowing parts of the world to have protection from damaging human interference.

Well, QEII National Trust in New Zealand does something similar, but it's on privately owned land.

About 40 years ago there was a farming couple on the North Island of New Zealand who witnessed rapid land development around them and wanted to to protect part of the land that belonged to them. But they didn't want to just protect it themselves - they wanted to set up a legal covenant which would protect that land for generations to come. They wanted to make sure that even if another person bought the land, the covenant would remain on the land record, unable to be removed, and therefore the next owner would also be prohibited from turning the land into farmland or a mine or whatever.

Kind of like a national park, but on private land.

And that's what, basically, QEII National Trust now does. It offers legal support, and part of the funding, to people who throughout New Zealand want to set up protected areas on their lands.

Owners do not give land away to QEII National Trust. Land remains private - able to be sold, and re-sold.

Neither do owners give away management of the land. They remain owners and managers of the land, and they deal with pest control, weed control, planting. They continue receiving support from QEII National Trust, and the trust visits their land every 2 years to check on it - but otherwise, it's still owners' responsibility to deal with the land.

The setup has been through the court on several occasions and remains a strong legal concept. There have been people who've bought land and have then attempted to remove the QEII National Trust covenants, but they haven't succeeded. Even, basically, if land "accidentally" caught fire and the native bush burned off, it still would be a protected area, unable to be developed.

The list of private lands protected in such a manner continues to grow. I think Jesse said it's approximately two new areas each week? Some are small, a couple of hectares each - a bunch of bush around a pond in the middle of a farmland, fenced off. Others are massive - I think Jesse said the biggest is 93 000 hectares, managed by an overseas owner who bought a large piece of land and turned 90% of it into protected bush.

It provides important migration corridors to protected species of wetland birds. There are rare orchids on some, rivers which remain blocked off from farmland on others and, as a result, remain clean.

Fascinating topic. Absolutely fascinating!

QEII National Trust.

She picks it up pretty quickly

As me and The Girlie watched a short documentary about Cassini's last approach to Saturn where it burned up three days ago...

...The Girlie sketched a couple of planets with surface variations and rings.

A pretty good effort for a 3-year-old, if I may say so myself.

I have time again!!!

On Tuesday, I submitted my last school assignment for the year. From now onwards, it's just lectures and then one big exam at the end.

The relief is... palpable.

Or shall I phrase it instead: WOOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! :D

The backlog I ended up in in May when The Kid had to change schools and for a month I dragged him along to my lectures - whilst he didn't have a school to go to - and I got very little schoolwork done due to meetings, research, paperwork and then both kids having chickenpox - it's really only now that I've cleared it. It's really only now that the last assignment is submitted and I am free (I am free!), I am no longer behind the rest of the class.

It is such a joy. Such joyful relief. Such joyfully relieving calming of life.

I thought it would immediately translate into more spare time, but at the moment it hasn't yet. Instead, I am catching up on the rest of the life that's kind of been pushed back.

I vacuum floors, including tricky corners and under furniture where big dustballs have been gathering. I sort the kitchen cupboards, pouring ingredients into containers rather than having them sit in plastic bags in a pile. I look through "needs sorting"-pile of paperwork on my dresser where by this point, I don't even remember what's in there - all I know is, for a while I have been putting "important" paperwork onto my dresser, to be looked through "later", and it's been steadily growing since... May, really.

I've also started to blog again.

And write.

I've discovered a painful truth that whilst I've been busy with life, a book deal that's been waiting on me for EIGHT years has been given away to someone else.

It's unfortunate. I've finally got myself to a place where I've thought, this summer I will actually get done!, but it has turned out that... the publishing house is no longer waiting on me. They had a change of management, the new manager signed up another author without telling me about it, and whilst I was discussing my book with Invercargill's writers' group, figuring out how to structure my work, it turns out another person was already working on it - and by the time I contacted the publishing house, saying, I think I can do it!, the answer was, basically, sorry.

Though the immediate reaction was sadness - I have to admit, I did tear up - in some ways it has brought on excitement. I am no longer in the privileged position of having a book deal even before writing it, however the passion for writing it has returned, which makes me think I am probably going to write it anyway, whether there's a publishing house wanting to back it or not, and I am going to see what happens.

It's... wonderful, after a long time of not having time, not having time, not having time - school, kids, moving, life - to suddenly have time and it feels like my whole brain is going, POOF! THE OPPORTUNITIES! ALL THE THINGS I CAN DO WITH MY LIFE NOW!

Springs is coming. The trees are blooming. The sun is out.