Friday, August 30, 2013

New beginnings

Winter is not the only thing ending shortly; today heralds the end of my 'service ranger' job and a start on Monday as an 'administration officer'. Major restructures on this scale are stressful but I hope the dust settles soon and strong leadership makes it all worthwhile.

I've decided that cloning myself would solve a lot of problems and help me work through my 'to do' list at lightning speed. Fine weather means firewood time and it's been satisfying to work my way through the woodpiles.

Two woodpiles sorted out - now to get the chainsaw out!!!
There's a thousand other fine weather jobs waiting for me: Darwin's barberry is starting to flower so that needs to be searched out and destroyed, along with gorse, blackberry and lupin. I need to get seeds and seed potatoes planted and my poor blackcurrants still haven't been pruned and transplanted from two years ago. I did manage to install my 3 vertical KaMate rat traps though...

The new KaMate trap on the left along with 2 Victor traps on the right

Lifting the lid on the KaMate trap - the trap's not set yet and putting
some baits around will hopefully get the right 'smells'
Signs of Spring are increasing daily and the birds are getting frisky. The native fuchsia, Fuchsia excorticata, or kotukutuku, is bursting into leaf and flower and I spent 30 minutes trying to get a good photo of the birds feeding on it before giving up and swapping to a flowering brush wattle.

A camera-shy tui who kept hiding in the branches

This waxeye (silvereye) was more co-operative
Despite not getting a good 'bird on the fuchsia' pic, I had fun photographing the new leaves and flowers - the New Zealand fuchsias are apparently the only fuchsias in the world with blue pollen and early NZ pollen fossils have been dated as being over 30 million years old.

How's this for a weird visitor - it was on my jacket after a morning sorting wood.

Is it a bird, is it a plane???

Nah, it's a Bag Moth caterpillar

The end of a Bic biro for scale

Sunday, August 18, 2013

T-shirt and shorts weather

What a gorgeous hot sunny day today! And not just a bit of sunshine between showers, or a glimpse of blue sky through the clouds either - the day dawned bright and clear and it stayed that way all day. Just perfect!! Wet weather does have its compensations though - how about this for a stunning rainbow on 8 August?

Yesterday I transplanted some vege seedlings that were sown at Easter. Getting tipped off the greenhouse shelves and landing upside down didn't help their growth and some of them didn't have much of a root system so not sure how they'll go. A tv gardening programme said that in the olden days the farmer dropped his britches and sat on the ground; if the soil felt cold then it was too early to plant seeds! I didn't need to drop my britches as the soil was cold and clammy on my hands; hopefully this plastic enclosure will help them get established and grow into big strong vegetables. 

The finished shade house Mark II
 I made another trip to Bragg Bay today to clear more gum tree branches - there's just the big stuff now that needs a chainsaw. I have a number of woodpiles around the house - there's at least three lots of kindling, a couple for branches that can be cut with a bow-saw, and a larger pile that will need chainsawing. It would be easier to have two woodsheds but that's a bit over the top for a one-person household.

Gum-leaf pyramid by my woodshed
I've had a wee rest from beer bread making this week. Last weekend I experimented with ginger beer and although it was edible, it wasn't half as nice as beer bread and it stuck to the non-stick loaf tins. My favourite so far is adding Moroccan spice, half a teaspoon of mixed spice and 8-10 chopped olives.

Ginger beer bread - a coarser texture and pretty bland

Olive, mixed spice and Moroccan spice loaves

Monday, August 5, 2013

Gummy Sunday

An offer of firewood in exchange for a hard day's labour clearing an area where a large gum tree had blown down was too good to pass up. The large stuff had been chainsawed through but the wood needed stacking and all the tops moved out of the way. Most people dump the tops but I find the leaves and twigs perfect for lighting the fire and small branches burn with a lot of heat - plus the smell is lovely! The morning started out wet but the adage 'raining at 7, fine by 11' held true (though 50 minutes early) and blue skies appeared as I walked the 3km to the site.

It's a lovely walk down to Bragg Bay from my house (A), along Back Road, down Hicks Road on to Horseshoe Bay Road as it runs along Butterfield Beach, then a right turn into Bragg Bay Road and along to my destination (B).

At the red cross on the map, there's this lovely view on one side of the road...
Mill Creek (on the right) where it meets Bathing Beach (middle)
...and in the opposite direction a view of the road down to Butterfield Beach.

Butterfield Beach looking back towards Halfmoon Bay
A nice walk along the beach, then up a sharp hill and turn right into Bragg Bay Road. Halfway along there is a fairly recent slip - I'm glad I wasn't walking past when it came down! The road is only single lane and there's a sharp drop off the other side.

Round the corner and down the hill, then along the picturesque Bragg Bay.

Bragg Bay
I got to the site at 10.45am and set to stacking all the large bits of wood over in the corner, then slowly but surely worked my way through all the top branches piled up beyond. Loppers and a bow saw are a lot less stressful to work with than a chainsaw and don't make anywhere near as much noise!

Before Pic at 10.45am
and After Pic - with the trailer all stacked up at 3.45pm
I unloaded the trailer this afternoon and went back with it to fill it up a second time. I've got enough kindling to last a few years I reckon but if it works well as a fuel as well as kindling then I should be able to get away without buying in wood. The house heats up so quickly since I got double-glazing so worth experimenting - I wonder if I could make bricks out of compacted gum leaves?
Today dawned cool and clear after a starry, starry night so I'll leave you with this pic from my deck just before the sun rose...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Beer bread and sunrises

The wet weather we've had lately means that I've seen more of the inside of my wee whare than usual. Although I haven't been very productive, I've read a couple of books, done plenty of online research for tablets and smartphones and also made more beer bread. I'm still in the experimental phase and working out what works and what doesn't.

Beer bread made with salsa and Cajun seasoning and cooked
in mini-loaf tins
My last effort involved putting half the dough in the mini-loaf tin, spreading salsa and chopped salami over, then adding the rest of the dough with a thin smear of salsa with grated cheese on top. Into my mini-oven for 35 minutes (will do for a bit longer next time) and although they looked and tasted good, the loaf came apart where the filling was. Putting the dough in patty tins was another success but I didn't get to try those as they were for a pot luck lunch.

Once I started reading the 'Owner Series', by Neal Asher, all other jobs took a back seat. It's just as well the third book, Jupiter War, isn't being released for a few more weeks otherwise I'd have an even bigger backlog of jobs!

Books 1 and 2 of the 'Owner Series' - book 3 coming soon
If you want to get a glimpse into what the future could hold for a burgeoning population with diminishing resources then these books are well worth a read. Set around 2150 there are enough parallels with what's happening today to see that global government, widening the gap between rich (elite) and poor (zero assets), and political control of media and scientific research are dangerous roads to go down. At the beginning of each chapter the author writes a short essay which I found thought-provoking and a good structure to develop his story around. The story pulls no punches; maybe it should be essential reading for us to avoid irrevocable harm to our planet and our humanity.
On to something a bit lighter! We've had a few spectacular sunrises lately, here's one from 20 July from home...

...and this one yesterday as I walked to work. It's getting much lighter in the mornings now and the korimako (bellbirds) start their dawn chorus as I'm walking; a wonderful accompaniment and so much nicer than traffic noise!

I spent a day track trimming at Dancing Star a couple of weeks ago and came across a kaka having a fine old time in a macrocarpa tree, yanking the bark off and judging by the number of fresh scars up and down the trunk, he must have been doing it for a while.
No robins to entertain me this time but probably just as well as the track was overgrown and took a while to trim back. Here's a section where it was hard to see where the track went - look for the pink tape in the middle of the photo!
Pink triangles to mark the bait stations (this one was Line 2, bait station 13)
and pink fluoro tape to mark the track
My technology upgrade went well and great to report a big increase in internet signal strength after swapping my Sierra 306 T-Stick for a Huawei E587 mobile hotspot. I have the Huawei plugged in to my yagi aerial and now run my notebook wirelessly from anywhere inside the house. I can have up to 5 wireless devices so should work a treat when I make up my mind on which tablet to buy. The Google Nexus 7-2 has just been released in the US and comes with impressive specs but probably not available in NZ for a few weeks - and I guess there could be some bargains lurking for the earlier model. Any suggestions most welcome!!