Monday, November 25, 2013

The art of Nature - or the nature of Art?

I love slow-walking! We miss so much by sitting in cars or dashing everywhere as fast as possible. Last week I took my camera and hunted down these close-ups of our amazing natural world - will pop the orchids in the next blog.

A bidibid seed head

Close-up of the bidibid seed head

Land of the long white clouds

Close-up of cutty grass seed head

Another species of cutty grass - droopy seed heads with fluffy white ends

And yet another type of cutty grass with seeds hanging off the seed head

Close-up of the cutty grass leaf - watch your fingers!

Close-up of a fertile frond of a fern

With a bit of imagination this new fern frond looks like people queuing up

Are these the three wise men?

A lancewood reaching for the sky

Fern koru

Another koru

Another koru looking like a caterpillar laying on its back

A great re-covery

I bought my computer chair in the late 90s and it's been sat upon for thousands of hours. Although it's still very serviceable, it was looking shabbier by the day, not helped by the wet sponge-clean I gave it which only made it worse. In the end I decided that it would be better to re-cover the chair and bought some material in Spotlight when I was last in Invercargill.

A comfortable but tired computer chair
I had hoped for some material with a bit of colour but could only find light colours so chose a chocolate brown weave instead, hoping that the texture would make it less boring. A few hours, and several used staples later, I had a new chair!

Brand new again!
I bought enough material to re-cover the dining chairs as well - one down, 3 more to go.

The dining chairs are shaped so need a central seam down the middle
My wee whare turned into a bakery a couple of weeks ago as I made 4 batches of beer bread rolls and some fruit loaves for an Island cake stall to raise money for the Philippine relief effort. The bread rolls had olives and sun-dried tomato and I experimented with spreading Pam's basil pesto on the rolls before I put them in the oven. It worked a treat and added that extra something both in looks and taste. The generosity of locals and visitors helped raise $1000 in less than 2 hours.

Setting up the cake stall down at the village noticeboard
I tidied up the area by the water tank a week ago when I needed to move two large blue pots so I could cut the grass. The area was covered in rubble so I added some compost and weed mat, then put the pots on top. I had a couple of mussel buoy 'ends' and decided to rest those on the blue pots to grow some mesclun in although they might be a tad tempting for any deer walking past!

The new garden patch by the watertank

My 'Taranaki' gate to keep the critters out

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thank goodness for the rain!

No-one was happier than me when it started raining at 4pm this afternoon as it meant that I could put my feet up without feeling that I should be outside! My bones are feeling a tad tired after a week of intense weeding, grass cutting and gardening but it's great to feel motivated and rewarding to finally have a neat and tidy section.

My Stihl brushcutter (or scrub-bar as it seems to be called here) has been working overtime; I think I've done 7 fuel-loads so far. I use a steel blade but it still struggles through the mass of cutty grass, reeds and long grass. I'm okay on the flat but still find it difficult cutting on uneven ground. After raking all the grass up last night, I can see that it will need another cut in a week or two to keep it looking smart for Christmas.

Start day - 17 November 2013

The back area sort of finished 20 November

A nice neat driveway - no mud-puddles after a long fine spell

Panorama before raking - I should be making hay bales

Panorama after raking - with 5 mini-haystacks that got moved to my new compost heap just before the rain
I've declared war on blackberry and my first encounter with the enemy resulted in scratched arms and legs but also the satisfaction of clearing a small area by the front boundary. Yesterday I started on the large patch nearest the house and discovered boardwalk hiding under the bracken and brambles.

Heading down to the duckpond

Looking back to the house
I'm not sure if I'll keep it there as it was slippery even when dry. I could cover it with netting and I guess it would give easier access into the middle of the wetland area; there's a bridge over the stream and also a duckpond - no doubt I could run guided tours to listen to the frogs each night!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tui attack

Tui are at their noisiest in springtime with lots of territorial aggression and mating behaviour. At times a single tui will blunder into another's patch and is immediately chased off with much flapping of wings. Tui will take on kaka and kereru to protect their food source and with the native fuchsia flowering at present, there's a lot of tui around.

Tui on kowhai - taken when I lived in town
An island tui in the flowering cherry tree
An unforgettable experience for me is being in the middle of a tui raid; flocks of 50-100 birds decide to attack a good food source knowing that there is safety in numbers. Just the sound of furious wing flapping - and sometimes the mewling of the tui whose patch they are raiding as it futilely tries to protect its nectar source. I had my camera out ready and waiting when it last happened to me but as soon as I pressed 'record' a message came up with 'insufficient space on the memory card'! Rats!!

Other birds are also active; the kereru are back out of the bush and feeding on the flowering broom and fresh leaf growth. I want to get rid of the broom but love seeing these large birds balancing on the thin branches. I do have to watch out when working outside as sometimes the kereru fly low and fast not far from me! Flocks of kakariki fly overhead and I heard the first pÄ«pÄ«wharauroa (shining cuckoo) of the season on 25 October - it's flown all the way from the Solomon Islands to mate and lay eggs that other birds (generally grey warblers and brown creepers) will raise. The most common bird heard around home is the korimako (bellbird), possibly because I don't have many fuchsia trees here which bring the tui.

I didn't realise the influence that territories have on bird distribution; in town you put out some bird seed and sparrows, blackbirds, gulls, mynahs and starlings all fly in and seem to co-exist. I don't feed the birds here but I think the birds would be less tolerant of sharing their territory with others. celebrated its anniversary with a radio interview on last Friday's Nine to Noon show on RadioNZ. Listen to Colin Meurk talking about 'citizen science' here (9 mins 47 secs long, opens in a new window) or check out their Facebook page here.

Vege garden update

It's all go in the vege garden despite some wintry weather. I'm thrilled to be picking silverbeet again and although the courgette seeds didn't sprout, everything else has been a success. The photos were taken on 6 November.

The Warehouse had some good gardening specials and I bought a couple of different garden 'cages' to keep the birds (and other pests) off my young seedlings. I've set up the cloche one but the larger cage needs some thought over where it will go. Maybe I'll have to do the tyre retaining wall first but it could be a while as I'm still waiting for the tyres to arrive.

Cloche-type cover with bird netting on the raised bed. The rhubarb
has put on a growth spurt and the white currants in the
foreground are flowering profusely

Inside the shade house are silverbeet, broccoli, beetroot and potatoes

The potato plants are growing higher and higher!
A kiwi has been visiting lately but it's a bit worrying to find prints like this on my driveway...

Kiwi and small dog footprints on the same night
The prints were 10-15m from the road so the dog must have been off the lead; I haven't seen any small dogs being walked around here but there are plenty of big dogs. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled - it only takes one loose dog to wipe out the kiwi in the area.

The orchids are growing well with most of the tutukiwi (greenhood orchids) out in flower - I'll pop up some photos in the next week or two. Here's a bank of Thelymitra (sun orchids) - they'll look stunning once out in flower.

A mass of Thelymitra (the green spikes) growing on the bank at the side of the road

Village happenings

The flora is not the only thing waking up on the island after winter; so too is the settlement of Oban as it gears up for another tourist season. Spring is an unsettled season here with changeable weather - summer one moment and back to winter the next. The day length is increasing rapidly and I can walk home at 9.30pm without a torch. No doubt the weather will become more settled as Christmas approaches.

The township has visitors milling about once more and booking offices, cafes and the movie theatre have re-opened after hibernating through winter. A special event last Tuesday was the launch of Ulva Goodwillie's book, 'Ulva Island - a visitor's guide'. Stunning photos and Ulva's special touch with the text shows how special Ulva Island is, and a must-see destination for visitors to the island - covered in temperate podocarp rainforest and teeming with bird life, including mohua (yellowhead) and tieke (South Island saddleback) it demonstrates what a predator-free mainland could become in the future. More information on this special island can be found on DOC's website (1.8Mb, opens in a new window).

The book launch at The Fernery was a great success with Ulva, and principal photographer, Gareth Eyres, kept busy signing books and sharing the story of how the book came about.

Ulva Goodwillie at her book launch, 5 November 2013

Ulva busy signing books

Principal photographer, Gareth Eyres
There was a different sort of visitor to the township the following day when a female seal decided to do some shopping. I'm not sure if it was the same one that we saw on 1 November as the plane shuttle took us up to the airstrip - can you see the seal swimming to the right of the post?

Mrs Seal wondering whether to cross the road to Ship to Shore

A quick shot from the moving Stewart Island Flights shuttle just captured
the seal swimming in Halfmoon Bay
A visitor to my place was this native terrestrial flatworm that was on a plastic pot found in the bush. See if you can identify it on the Massey University website on soil organisms page (link opens in a new window).

Amazing how it can stretch out - this seems to be the 'head' end!