Thursday, January 26, 2012

Māori Beach Historic Site

I blinked and another week slipped past me! It's getting darker in the mornings but we are still having lovely long twilights. I was hoping for clear skies at night as the aurora in the northern hemisphere has been putting on some stunning shows and we might get the same down here - fingers crossed that the low cloud and rain morphs into clear skies later on tonight.

Continuing on with my 8 January blog, here are some photos from the Māori Beach Historic Site. Māori Beach was a thriving settlement between 1913 and 1935 with a school, houses and a sawmill. Remains of the mill's boiler and steam engine is slowly being reclaimed by the regenerating ngahere.

Rusting blade

Part of the Department of Conservation Info panel

I wonder how history would have changed if we hadn't had the technology to cut down the beautiful trees in such large numbers. I had no idea until I did my study that farming was nowhere near as productive as native bush. It's great to see a move towards planting natives along waterways and fencing off bush remnants in gullies and steep land - and also the revegetation and weed control on offshore islands.

Mentioning weeds has raised my hackles a tad - it is disappointing to see so many weeds in flower and know that the problem will be worse next year. I can understand gardeners wanting something different in their garden but how many of these exotics will become serious weeds in the future. Plants such as cotoneaster, holly and barberry DO look pretty and the birds DO love the berries but seeing dense stands of these weeds growing in native bush is upsetting. It's probably too late for the North and South Islands but hopefully it's not too late for Rakiura to return to its pristine state if the caretakers of the land make responsible choices for their gardens.

Work had its moments this week with the installation of a new Point of Sale system. No doubt the glitches will get fewer letting my hair grow back again; just as well we have extra-patient customers!

Last, but not least, do catch Te Radar's 'Eating the Dog' show if he comes to a place near you. Lots of laughs and interesting information delivered superbly.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Even better than I dreamt :)

Woohoo! Today I'm celebrating the first anniversary of my arrival on Rakiura to live my dream. I'm so glad that it's my 'weekend' so that I can spend the day reflecting on what the year has meant to me. It's not easy leaving family and friends behind to begin a new life prefaced with a large question mark. I am truly blessed that it has worked out better than I dreamt it could be.

The biggest reason for moving here was to live a more natural life: simpler, more focused on the environment and with a reduction of my global footprint. A life with less emphasis on the almighty dollar and more on the currencies of environment and community. With an ultra-light kit of necessary skills I put my trust in the Universe and stepped off the treadmill.

The Islanders have been wonderful and welcoming. Most of them wear several hats and are multi-talented - I guess living on an island and having to rely on the resources available does that by default. There is passion and pride when talking about their island and their acceptance of 'unusual' and 'different' has made it easy to feel at home. I moved here during peak tourist season but the locals went out of their way to make time for me and my questions.

So what have I learned? I've discovered that a 40 square metre well-insulated whare is perfect for my needs, and that less storage space equates to less clutter (although I still have too much!). I can identify a lot more of Aotearoa's amazing flora and fauna and love waking up each morning and taking that first look at the ngahere surrounding my home. I have heard 32 kiwi calls over the year, mostly from my snug bed; so much more comfortable than previous times in the East Taranaki outback. I've realised that I'm sadly lacking in 'useful' skills such as carpentry, sketching ideas and decorating but I'm taking baby steps to learn them now so better late than never!

Picking up work with the weeds team, and currently a 15 week fulltime contract in the Visitor Centre, means I've had less spare time but gained a lot more knowledge about the island. I've learned to navigate using a GPS and compass and seen firsthand the threat that weeds have on native bush. It may be too late to eradicate pest plants and animals from most places in Aotearoa but surely it's worth making a concerted effort on Stewart Island before it's too late. The thought of Darwin's Barberry, Chilean Flame Creeper and Selaginella thriving in the national park is heart-wrenching but eradication will only succeed if everyone helps to remove pest plants from their properties. So much easier and cheaper NOT to bring the plants here in the first place!

The biggest surprise has probably been the weather - I love it! Compared to Taranaki it's been less wet, less windy and although cooler by the thermometer, it doesn't feel it. The sun heats my whare up quickly and good insulation means that I don't need to light the fire as often as I thought. There was hail and snow in winter, but it was lighter than the New Plymouth snowfall when I was there in August. Having a day of continuous rain is rare, it's more likely to rain, then be sunny until the next shower breezes across. I've discovered that modern raincoats, leggings and gumboots keep you dry on the inside and that the rain sounds much heavier when you are inside a building than when you are walking in it!

Highlights of my year (not enough room for all of them!)
  • Being greeted the first evening by a flock of 12 kereru
  • Seeing a pair of kiwi in my vege garden early one morning in November, then hearing their duet a few minutes later
  • Using my new shower for the first time
  • Catching rats - both in my traps and on my Deep Bay ratlines
  • Skyping with family when my (slow) internet connection allows
  • Picking fresh silverbeet from my garden (nowhere near as easy as in Taranaki)
  • Hearing birdsong most of the time that I'm home
  • Kayaking to Kaipipi Inlet
  • Christmas in Christchurch - Kia Kaha
  • Sharing my new life with friends who have come to visit

The day is going much too quickly so I'll post this now - my ratlines need checking and sitting in front of a computer isn't half as much fun! Thanks for following my blog and posting comments; it's very much appreciated.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A wuss in Wonderland

One of the many things I lack is the confidence to give new things a try. I'm so good at procrastinating and making excuses when faced with the challenge of doing anything for the first time. My Stihl brushcutter was kindly run in by a workmate in New Plymouth to check that it worked okay before it was packed. It has lain pristine and unused since my arrival but with the grass up to my waist, and with the slasher not really doing the job effectively, I finally plucked up courage last Sunday to give the brushcutter a go.

Before I started - grass, grass and more grass!
Obstacle no. 1 was that I couldn't find the manual. I thought I kept everything together but I haven't! Just as well Stihl have the manuals on their website; a quick download and printout of the relevant pages tells me what each button does - a good start.

Obstacle no. 2 was trying to understand the manual! Although the manual was for the right model, the pictures for the harness and carrying ring didn't match my brushcutter at all. I'll just have to wing it.

I made up the petrol/oil mix, filled the tank, gave the bulb a few squeezes and pulled the starter rope. Then I pulled it again and again - and then read the instructions - I wonder if I have Easy2Start or not?? Whoops, forgot the choke. A few more pulls; back to the instructions again: "After no more than five pulls (whoops again), move the choke lever (8) to the horizontal position". Copy that. A few more pulls - maybe I've now flooded the combustion chamber. More reading - aah, pull the starter rope briskly maybe 10-20 times. Bingo! The engine coughed into life; thank you Universe!

I managed to cut a fair amount of grass for 1 litre of petrol but I'll have to work on my technique. I can't get the unit balanced comfortably and although I thought I was cutting close to the ground, the final result isn't that neat and tidy. Practice will make perfect - and I'm more than pleased that I managed to do what I did on my own. Now, about that chainsaw...!!!

Here's a few before and after pics:

The sheet was hitting the grass before it was cut

Not bad eh!

A tidy, and very dry, driveway

Still a lot of grass to go but at least I can walk around the house now

Not content with cutting the grass, I also revamped the greenhouse and tidied up the garden. The beetroot is growing well since its nibbling by Mr Possum - so far he hasn't climbed my makeshift fences.

The beetroot survived but no bean seeds (on lhs) have sprouted yet

I bought a Vegetable Planter twinpack from The Warehouse
and popped that at the back of my greenhouse. I planted the ONLY seed that sprouted (a perpetual spinach plant) along with some mesclun, corn salad and silverbeet seeds. The greenhouse has a few tears in the plastic where the cloth ties wrap around the metal frame - and also along the heat-sealed join. I've run some all-weather tape along which seems to be holding so far but it doesn't bode well for the rougher winter weather. I guess you have to try these things out to learn what works best.

One of The Warehouse Vegetable Planters - takes 3 bags of potting mix. The
silverbeet is growing well - had my first feed of it at the weekend

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Potirepo/Port William

I woke early on Saturday and decided to explore an area where I hadn't been. Potirepo/Port William was first an early Māori settlement, then home to sealers and whalers and in the 1870s it was where a number of Shetland Islanders made their home. It is now the site of one of the DOC huts on the 36km Rakiura Track, one of NZ's 'Great Walks'. The start of the track is at Lee Bay but I decided to turn off a wee bit before then and go up Garden Mound (see label A). Unless you've been here before, my introduction is probably double dutch - here's a map...

Way up to Port William (solid line), dotted line different route back.
Wooding Bay is Māori Beach 
The Garden Mound track climbs to around 160m above sea level and winds its way through unmilled native forest. The track is normally muddy and slippery but no significant rain for 6 weeks or so means the mud has just about dried up. There are a few view ports from the top (see below) but my best photos were of native bush flowers and trees - definitely a place worth more than one visit!
Garden Mound entrance off Lee Bay Road

Old rimu standing sentinel in the unmilled bush
View near the top of Garden Mound - Horseshoe Bay just
visible in middle, Halfmoon Bay is next bay up, then
Paterson Inlet at top

New fern koru

Rimu fronds

Rimu trunk with flaking bark

The Rakiura Track is an all-weather track that is gravelled (well up to Port William, not sure about the rest of it!) and reasonably easy-walking. It was low tide so I could walk along the Little River beach on the way up but had to take the high tide route inland coming back. Māori Beach is a gorgeous spot - white sands, a long sweeping beach with all sorts of shells on it - there's also a DOC campsite there with water, toilets and a kitchen shelter. I'll tell you more about the Māori Beach historic site in a later blog. You can see the Port William jetty from the beach if you have good eyesight - or a zoom lens!

I've heard of leatherjacket fish but sandjacket??
Suspension footbridge at end of Māori Beach
Looking back down the beach from the footbridge
The track then winds north. At 1.6km from Māori Beach there's the turnoff for North Arm, the other hut on the Rakiura Track. Both huts sleep 24 and they have to be booked in advance; there's also 3 campsites and because it's a Great Walk, there's no freedom camping until you get out of the Rakiura Track area. Just before the hut is the Port William campsite - how's this for a view?

View from Port William campsite - hut is a few minutes walk past the jetty
Port William hut is another 1.9km on from North Arm turnoff but well worth the visit - it's set amongst huge gum trees which were initially planted by the Shetland Islanders.

View from jetty - hut is behind the tall gums

Potirepo/Port William Hut
I had lunch under the gum trees and watched the waves gently lapping at the white sands - what a perfect place although I suspect it's a bit rowdier when 24 trampers turn up :). All too soon, it was time to retrace my steps - it was a quicker walk back as I put my camera away for the most part, had to get pics of Lee Bay though as I bypassed it by going up Garden Mound...

Lee Bay

Lee Bay - official start/end of the Rakiura Track
The walk back home seemed much longer than it did earlier in the day but the thought of a cuppa drove me on. My wee tramp ended up being over 20km so I was early to bed but boy, was it worth it!!