Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas pics

I've taken a break from gardening to take more photos - enjoy...

The only clouds in the sky

Putting dried rimu tops in the bottom of the raised bed to assist
with drainage

Manuka flower

Close up of manuka flower - such perfection in small things :)
Thelymitra native orchid - but a white one!

Thelymitra - I think it's cyanea but now I'm wondering!!!

Close up with sandfly

Merry Christmas

It's a beautiful morning on the island and Santa found a way down my chimney to leave some goodies that I'll unwrap later. It's my first Christmas Day on the island as last year I was in Christchurch. A few pohutukawa trees have been introduced to Stewart Island but our native Christmas tree is the rata; where possums have been controlled the rata make spectacular displays up in the canopy. It's hard to capture the impact of a bright patch of red in a photo but you get the idea!

Flowering rata
Another good show provided by our amazing ngahere (native bush) is the indeterminate number of colours, shades and textures, both from afar...

Lime-green ponga in amongst the kotukutuku (native fuchsia)

Coastal temperate rain forest
and close up...

It's great to be on holiday for the next two weeks but I'm not sure if it's going to be long enough to get through a lengthy To Do list. First up is the revamp of the vege garden area with a raised bed and clearing the weeds and reeds so that I can assemble the 'shade house' - well, it's actually a pet enclosure but I'm going to cover the netting with micro-climate cloth which lets the rain through whilst keeping some of the heat in. It's heavy enough not to be blown away and the netting will keep the possums out. On the subject of possums, my Goodnature trap hasn't caught any yet but the one at Dancing Star did last week.

23 December: A big heap of weeds, not really a vege garden at all!

Christmas Eve afternoon - a raised bed in the making

I've been doing a bit of orchid-spotting; Aotearoa has many native orchids - check out this website if you are interested http://www.nativeorchids.co.nz/ or buy their excellent colour field guide for only $20 incl p/h. Here's one of the 36 taxa of Pterostylis, the principal genus of the greenhoods - I still have to work out which one it is!

The above clump was on the road bank just down from my driveway. Another common one on my property is Thelymitra cyanea, or striped sun orchid (I think!!!). The flowers are fairly shy to open and most of the time the buds are closed tight. I've just found a white one open, will put that in the next blog!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Countdown to holidays!

I'm on target with my Christmas mail, I've scrubcut the long grass and got a heap more firewood stacked in the woodshed so won't feel guilty at all for putting my feet up from Friday lunchtime onwards! I have 2½ weeks off work and looking forward to slow days, sunny weather and catching up on reading and blogging. Of course, this all depends on whether the end of the world is happening on Friday - it will be such a bummer if I finish work and don't get to enjoy my hols :).

I'm miles behind with my blog; I've been taking lots of photos but haven't had the time to wrap some words around them. I'll have to get back to more regular blogging so that I don't forget what I've been up to.

The DOC rec team have the job of emptying the toilets from the huts, the Lee Bay road end and some staff houses. They pump the sludge into a tank that is then helicoptered to the sewage pump station where it is manoeuvred into place and emptied. They had two helicopters working this year and I stopped to watch them - it's certainly not a glamorous job but is very essential and I thank you for it.

We've had some welcome sunshine lately after a Spring of fast-moving fronts bringing cold temperatures and a fair amount of rain. Last Sunday it was fine and breezy and I'm wondering if the ancient Mayans were spying on us from their spaceship...

The UFOs are coming!
I'm doing some volunteer work cleaning rat traps at the Dancing Star Foundation (DSF) - it's about an hour's walk from here and I get to see some quirky sights like these...

An ornate gate cemented in place but with no fence either side

A loo-vely sight at Grim's place
The DSF property stretches between Horseshoe and Lee Bays and has a 2km predator-restricted fence with an array of rat traps both inside and outside the fence. There is a bit of clambering down the cliffs, easy to do when it's fine and sunny but I might think twice in strong winds. I was rewarded yesterday with being metres away from 3 shags as they watched me wire-brush and oil the traps around their perching place.

And another reward when I climb back up is this view of the clear waters of Horseshoe Bay...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Liquid Summer sunshine!

The start of another month and the first day of Summer. Whilst most of Aotearoa has been baking under sunny skies, the bottom of the South Island has had a succession of fronts bringing strong winds, rain and the occasional hail storm. We've had enough sunshine between the showers to warm my house up and with the double-glazing keeping the heat in, I've had no need to light my fire despite cool night temperatures outside. Great for the environment and my wood stocks, getting double-glazing was certainly a good investment for me.

I've taken advantage of the inclement weather by curling up inside with the book, Existence, by David Brin. It was recommended to me and what a great, thought-provoking read it is. Published in the US on 1 June 2012, the story is based on our Earth in 2050 when contact is made with 'aliens'. Cleverly drawing parallels with the present issues of climate change, overpopulation, Big Brother and human nature, Brin weaves a fascinating tale of what happens when life outside our solar system makes contact. Is it science fiction - or is it non-fiction for the future!!

I bought my copy from http://www.fishpond.co.nz/Books/Existence-David-Brin/9780765303615

My new bed arrived a couple of weeks ago and a friend help me get it from the ferry wharf and bring it home. I had to move the linen cupboard and chest of drawers to swap beds and I had my new bed installed and made an hour later.

My new mattress and base from Brownies Mattress Direct, Invercargill

The view from the wharf
I was surprised to find the new bed shorter than the 1900mm standard - not quite sure how it lost 8 or 9cm but it's only just over 1800mm long. Just as well I'm a shortie! It's lovely and firm and doesn't sag in the middle and I'm sleeping well. Brownies offer free freight to the island which is a huge bonus.

What a pretty tree/shrub Makomako/Wineberry (Aristotelia serrata) is, especially at this time of year when prolific flowers of varying hues smother the branches. Check out the details on the wonderful T.E.R.R.A.I.N (Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network) website http://www.terrain.net.nz/friends-of-te-henui-group/table-1/wineberry-makomako.html

Makomako flowers
The new flowers are almost colourless, then deepen to pinks and reds as they age. Black/red berries ripen on the female trees in late summer and, in the olden days, were used as a drink (squeezed and strained to remove the bitter pips) by Māori or made into jam, jelly and wine by the settlers. It is deciduous on Stewart Island and there are several documented uses of its leaves, bark and wood.

Kiwi came visiting in the moonlight last Monday night; a female called three times within 30 minutes and then I heard them 'growling' close to the house. I saw one on the drive and another moving through the long grass by the deck - my smile was very broad as I went to bed that night! I'd spotted the weka family (Mum, Dad and just one chick) earlier that day, great to know that my rat trapping around the section is giving the birds a better chance of survival - along with the lizards and weta.

The weather surprised me on Thursday afternoon when I checked my rat lines over at Deep Bay. We'd had heavy showers all morning but the sun came out for a couple of hours as I checked my traps in the dry - just one heavy hailstorm as I walked home. Thank you Weather Gods!!

Check out the white caps past the sheltered waters of Deep Bay

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Back in the big smoke

So much for saying I'd be able to post more regular blogs. With some great Spring weather, I've been a busy bee outside AND have used my chainsaw - both under supervision and all on my own! At last count I still have all my fingers and toes but realise I have heaps to learn. Thanks, Noel, for your patient tutoring.

I spent a couple of lovely sunny days in Invercargill earlier this month and, at long last, have activated my DOC credit card and had some training with the guys in the Invercargill office. They are based on the 7th floor with this incredible view...

My shopping list was a mile long and I buzzed round after work to buy as many of them as I could. If I had a magic wand, I'd definitely move E. Hayes and Sons (Hammer Hardware) to the island. So much choice in all the essential items of nails, fencing staples and steel-toe boots. Just as well the shops offer a freight service to the island otherwise I would have looked like Santa Claus dragging a big sack.

Invercargill has some lovely old buildings - here's the town hall...

Close up of the decorative plaster work
One of my home projects was to modify the woodshed - it's a great Outpost Building woodshed with 3 large bays but I found that I was putting wet wood in front of the wood that was already stacked and dry. I've put a partition wall up and that's worked well. Today I've hung up a salmon net in the roof space and thrown all the kindling up. So far, so good - I have a lot more kindling than I thought so will be set for the next 10 years :)

Newly-added partition boards

30 mins after starting this morning - most of the kindling is under
the blue tarpaulin

Salmon-netting hammock - will it work??

The finished job. Room now to stack my newly-chainsawed firewood
in underneath the netting.
Another project I've ticked off is getting all my rat traps out and installing a Goodnature A12 Possum trap. I've doubled up my rat traps with one of the pair having chocolate bait and the other blue icing sugar mix. So far the chocolate is winning with no rats caught with the other bait. I haven't found any possums under the Goodnature trap - it's a new-fangled thing that has a wee compressed air gas cylinder that resets the trap 12 times before needing replacement. I'll keep you posted on any furry bodies!

Green rat traps at the base and the new
Goodnature possum trap above

Close-up of my new possum trap
I haven't spent a lot of time with my camera lately but had to stop and take photos of the fallen rata flowers on my Deep Bay rat lines - they looked so pretty on the forest floor...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A trip to Mason Bay - part 4

The last part of my Mason Bay adventure spotlights the Island Hill Homestead initially built by William Walker in 1884, five years after he took up the lease for the 2,500ha of Pastoral Run 419. Walker built his flock of sheep up to 1600 sheep before selling the farm in 1893 to Welles Orton Charlton, who subsequently sold up to Arthur Traill Junior in 1923. George and Stanford Leask, who were farming the Kilbride run, took over Island Hill from Arthur in 1942 and the last owner, Tim Te Aika, bought the lease in 1965 and ran 1,200 merino/romney sheep for 20 years before selling his stake to the Government in 1985. Since the final muster in 1986 the sheep paddocks have been left to revegetate naturally and the Homestead is now a base for DOC operations at Mason Bay and scientists. Down the track 200m stands the southernmost woolshed and sheep yards giving a glimpse of the hardship of farming in such isolation.

Mason Bay Homestead kitchen - the new gas stove has recently been
installed. The coal range needs to be lit for heating and hot water.

Mason Bay Homestead lounge/dining room

Mason Bay Homestead bathroom

My bedroom

Jen's bedroom
The woolshed was built in 1953 by Stanford Leask and, each summer, around 1500 sheep were hand shorn. Around 1966 electric clippers, first powered by tractor and later a generator, made the job easier although it was always a challenge to get the wool clip off to market.

Mason Bay Woolshed - Jen's looking at the sheep dip

No wire netting here - all done with rope
We walked back to Freshwater Landing with the wind at our backs. There's several hundred metres of long narrow boardwalk over the Chocolate Swamp, so called due to the colour of the water - I would definitely think twice about walking it in a severe crosswind. There are a couple of wider sections so you can pass trampers coming from the opposite direction but with heavy pack and tramping boots I'm very glad I didn't have to try them out!
Boardwalk over the Chocolate Swamp

Finally, a couple of bikes! The first is Mother Nature's version...

...and the second was a strange discovery we made about an hour's tramp from Freshwater Hut.

Not sure who added the recent hoodie jacket, the bike has been there
for quite a while!