Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Farewell to 2014

The last day of the year dawned with an extra-special treat of beautiful clouds which I think were mammatus. I grabbed the camera and spent the next few minutes snapping pics but it's hard to capture the soft apricot light, the 360° vista and I was a few minutes too late to catch the mammatus cloud before it started 'falling' - some of the pics on the Cloud Appreciation Society website are more stunning! 

Eastern sky 5.54am

Western sky - mammatus cloud 5.55am

Zoom on above pic - mammatus cloud 'dropping' through the atmosphere
If you have an interest in clouds then consider joining the Cloud Appreciation Society or 'follow' them on facebook and 'live life with your head in the clouds'.

It's been a particularly busy week in the shop with cruise ships visits on Monday (sunny and very hot), Tuesday (foggy start then cloudy and humid with a few light showers) and today (cloudy and humid with some rain). We've done a roaring trade in insect repellent, drinks, ice-creams and (surprisingly) hot pies; great to meet people from all over the world and to wish them a Happy New Year.

Monday 29 December - on my lunch break

Oban waterfront - shining like a jewel in the sun

View from where I work - Presbyterian Church to the left

The Oban Visitor Centre (or Red Shed) - hire cars, pushbikes, scooters,
guided tours and information centre

Not quite so sunny for our Tuesday cruise ship visitors but still warm

Cruise ships look quite strange anchored out in the Bay

Long queues for the checkout today 
There's less than 3 weeks until my 4th anniversary of moving down here; it's been an amazing experience and there's been a lot of 'firsts' in that time: using a chainsaw and scrub-bar, learning about the ngahere (native bush) and its inhabitants and becoming a blogger. It's a privilege to write about this special island and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you in 2015.

Best wishes to you all for a happy, healthy, peaceful and sustainable New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nature's Christmas decorations

Humans are not the only ones that decorate trees at Christmas - Mother Nature puts on a pretty good show without having to queue in shopping malls or spend any money! I took the camera out on Christmas Day to snap a few examples.

Kamahi in flower
At the entrance to my driveway is a beautiful kamahi in full flower; pink and white candles that smother the tree.

Kamahi flowers to the left, native clematis seed heads to the right

Close up of kamahi 'candles'

Kamahi candle forming the seed head

Seed head from last summer
The cabbage tree has also started flowering - it has a beautiful scent, especially on a warm summer's evening.

One of my transplanted flax plants has shot up a flower stalk not far from my bedroom window; fingers crossed for some good bird photos!

It's not a partridge, nor a pear tree but this kereru was happy to be photographed regardless!

Christmas lunch was a picnic on Horseshoe Bay beach with my friend, Raylene, and her Cairn terrier, Mac. Raylene brought her thermette which boiled water superfast for our cuppa and Mac put the 'sand' into sandwiches when he decided to bury his stick inches from the picnic blanket!!

Christmas on the beach

Time for a brew

Mac after a romp on the beach

Horseshoe Bay on Christmas Day

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Cooking in the sun

Most of our Spring was wet and windy so nice for locals and the tourists to get some hot summer weather. I had an ulterior motive for wanting the sunshine - I had invested in a solar oven and wanted to try it out!

Sustainability and New Zealand (link opens in new window) was one of the papers in the Open Polytechnic's Diploma of Environment and Sustainability that I took in 2006 and which, ultimately, prompted me to move to Stewart Island. It was a shock to learn that my resource use was unsustainable and that human modifications to the environment put future generations of all species at risk. World population figures had always been a tad meaningless to me until I saw a graph like this one...

...and realised that in 1900 there were 1.8 billion - and by the century's end it was 6.4 billion - 3½ times as many in just 100 years! There is no 'Planet B' and I made a pledge to do what I could to lead a more sustainable existence.

My nephew was using solar ovens in Thailand and I went looking online in 2006 but couldn't find any to purchase although there were some plans that I could download. I put it in the too hard basket until I received my December 2014 copy of the excellent 'Green Ideas' magazine and saw a solar oven on the front cover. With Mr Google's help I found Ebright Energy's website with a wide range of products including the Sunflair Solar Oven.

I read the reviews, liked what I saw and put in my order late at night on 6 December and was amazed to get the oven delivered to Ship to Shore on 9 December. I worked until 3pm then hurried home to open the package.

The Sunflair Deluxe Package for $185 with free freight. Package includes
the oven, 2 racks, 2 trays, 2 silicon collapsible pots, an enamel roaster,
instructions, a colour-coded thermometer and a carry bag.
The oven is lightweight and folds flat but super-easy to zip up when it's needed; the racks and trays are used under the pots and the thermometer lets you know when it's 'slow-cooking' time (85-140°C). All items except the enamel roaster fit easily into the supplied bag - it's well thought out and I applaud EBright Energy's founder, Kate Rowland, for her passion and excellent customer service.

It was too cloudy to try it out that day but the weather gods blessed me with a super-sunny morning on my day off and I made my first batch of muesli bars from the recipe on the Ebright Energy website - they took 2½ hours from 10am to 12.30pm.

I popped in some jacket potatoes an hour or so later but the cloud started to build up and the oven temperature dropped smartly once the sun was covered. The oven also needs to follow the sun so recommended that you turn it slightly every 45 mins or so; not a problem when I'm home but not quite so easy if I'm at work. I was impressed with how quickly it heats up when the sun is shining though and even if I'm just warming up water then it's still making a saving on using fossil fuel.

This bread recipe on the website takes 4 hours so that's my next project. Stewart Island could be a tad challenging with its fast-moving weather systems but I reckon that the Sunflair oven is a beaut way to cook for free.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ship to Shore Four Square

It's been raining steadily for 18 hours which is great for the rainforest and my vege garden. Yesterday, the mud puddles on the drive had dried up and I could walk my boundary without sinking into mud; today I almost have to swim round! I've been taking advantage of the dry weather to get the grass cut so with that done, I can now blog about my new job.

Stewart Island's only general store/supermarket is the Ship to Shore Four Square on Halfmoon Bay, Oban, and Sam recently became its owner-operator. I'm the newest staff member with three weeks service under my belt and I'm enjoying the challenge of working in this busy and fun environment.

Ship to Shore Four Square, Oban, Stewart Island

View of the Four Square (right) and Glowing Sky (left)
The nationwide Four Square family with over 280 stores celebrated its 90th birthday this year. Its founder, Mr J. Heaton Barker called a meeting in 1922 to discuss the formation of a co-operative group of independent grocers. Whilst talking to one of the members on the phone, Mr Barker drew a square around 4 July 1924 and realised he had the perfect name for the group - a store that would stand 'four square to all the winds that blew'. The Four Square stores have stood the test of time by living up to their catchphrases of 'Where all Kiwis love to shop', 'Always welcome. Always local. Always Four Squre', 'Providers of Kiwi essentials since 1924'.

The Four Square stores are locally owned and operated with a commitment to grocery tradition, personal customer service and supporting the local community. Nationally, Four Square support CanTeen, Crimestoppers, St John and VSA; locally, our store gives back to the community in numerous ways including funding traps, holding raffles, watching over the locals, especially our elders of excellence, and going out of their way to accommodate the needs of locals and visitors alike. For over 60 years, Four Square have welcomed babies born on 4 July with gifts; in 1961 it was a bear for every baby and the parents of triplets received a new car. The Four Square website has plenty of news, recipes and competitions - check it out!

Smiling Sam - owner-operator of Ship to Shore
New Zealand's first self-service grocery store was opened in Onehunga in February 1948 by Phil Barker (the Four Square founder's son) and Ray McGregor. Over the years these local stores have had to compete with the mega supermarkets but cheaper pricing often comes at the expense of personal service and community values. I'm proud to be part of a hard-working and supportive team that look after the Stewart Island community.

View of Halfmoon Bay from the shop door
Summer opening hours are 7.30am to 7pm and every day I've worked has been different in some way. Tuesday and Wednesday are main delivery days; pallets and ferry bins get delivered by forklift, manually unloaded and then it's a rush to get the shelves restocked and chilled/frozen goods put in the freezers or cool store. Magazine orders need to be processed, produce checked over and orders packed and delivered. The kitchen makes a selection of sandwiches, savouries and slices, along with a batch of freshly-cooked bread loaves each morning.

Our busy store is jam-packed with stock and even after 4 years of looking, I'm still discovering new items!

Entrance to store at right - there are four aisles plus the produce area

Shelves stocked with a wide variety of goods

Chillers and drinks cabinet line the back wall

Amelie putting up Christmas decorations on one of the produce cabinets

Jules decorating the aisle sign - photo taken from between the two checkouts
Charlie Four Square, or Cheeky Charlie, is a Kiwiana icon along with buzzy bees and jandals. He was developed by the Foodstuffs advertising department in the 1950s and has gone through several makeovers (his hair isn't parted now and the pencil behind his ear has disappeared). A number of artists, including Dick Frizzell, have used Mr Four Square in their artwork - check out this website (opens in new window).

Summer surfing with Charlie Four Square
There is also a Mr Four Square Car (link opens in a new window); a Model T Ford with a 20hp engine that was built in Canada in 1924, the same year that Four Square started. It has been rebuilt and restored by Bob Herron of Mosgiel - wouldn't it be neat to have on the island! Another eye-catching car was captured in a photo which became a popular artwork and makes me think of my friend up north that has it hanging on her wall.

Canvas print of Ship to Shore

The same view in December 2014 - but with no car!
With Christmas just 5 sleeps away, it's going to be a busy but exciting week with the opportunity to spread Christmas cheer and goodwill to locals and visitors. Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Meet some locals

It might be cool outside but there's still plenty of critters around. I have a couple of items of wooden furniture that are borer-ridden so I should be letting a couple of borer bombs off. Instead, I've opted to remove the adult beetles as they hatch out and put them outside! I think they are two-toothed borer, Ambeodontis tristis (Fabricus) - will have to put a photo up on NatureWatch for a positive identification.

I spotted this chappie (I think it's a crab spider) on the rhubarb but it wasn't until I downloaded the photos that I noticed that there were two critters in the photo...

Spider with lots of eyes - look closely to see his friend to the left

Another spider crawled along the table as I did my Christmas mail... had such a large abdomen that it struggled to lift it at times; what pretty patterning though.

My last critter is a Shield Bug (Family Pentatomidae) sitting on a twig. The first photos are of his/her rear end but I was amused to see a 'face' appear when I downloaded the photos.

I think I've just about caught up with the backlog so my next blog will be about my new job :)