Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Another stunning morning

Red skies in the morning often mean rain later in the day and today was no exception. Neon colours and unusual hues, along with a female/male kiwi duet at 5.05am, were a great way to start another day on this extra-special island - and to help me forget that those pesky deer had broken down my fence and got at my potatoes and rhubarb again!

The morning sky on my walk to work at 7.40am

Almost sunrise over Halfmoon Bay

A seagull swooped down to check out what I was doing

Would love to see this yacht under full sail
There's an autumnal chill to the early mornings and evenings; I lit the fire on Sunday and again tonight so nearing the time when it's the first thing I do when I get home. The temperature climbs quickly once the sun has risen so need thermals on my way to work and t-shirts during the day!

My PouchProducts shopping bags arrived swiftly after ordering (see previous blog) and I'm thrilled with them. They're well designed, NZ-made with most material sourced locally - and fit in well with my aim to reduce, reuse and recycle.

New PouchProducts bags on the right (the blue/red one is unpacked
from its pouch, the sky blue one is still in its pouch. Mesh bags
from PouchProducts are for fruit/veges. Old bags on the left.

The new mesh bags are also great for sprouting seeds
Freight was a very reasonable $4 and there's a wide range of colours; New Zealanders use 22 million plastic bags a week, most of which get used for less than 10 minutes and end up in landfill. Big thumbs up and great customer service too.

And now for the retaining wall...

Yesterday's sunshine meant I could cut the grass on the slope where I intend to put the tyre retaining wall. I don't see in 3D so it's hard for me to visualise a structure but at least clearing all the vegetation shows me what the slope is like - I now realise that the ground slopes quite considerably from the woodshed end to the incinerator!

Woodpile in February
No woodpile after the weekend's work

A well-stocked 12 cubic metre woodshed

Looking good in the afternoon sun

The tyre retaining wall is planned from the foreground down toward
the incinerator

Now to start on the retaining wall
 I have 96 tyres all of different sizes and widths; they are sorted by rim size but maybe I should be sorting them by width. I've checked out YouTube for hints but most vids are for vertical walls, rather than a gentle slope. The plan is to end up with a smooth, level grassy patch out from the deck and woodshed that I can mow. Any hints and tips would be most appreciated!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mother Nature's artwork

Another productive weekend done and dusted; the forecast was for rain/showers both days so thought I'd be catching up on inside work - it was a bonus to spend 1½ days outside with some beautiful sunshine later on today.

Friday night is usually the time for cruising but, with a cake stall on Saturday morning to raise funds for Vanuatu, I rolled up my sleeves and made rice crackles and bran muffins instead. Glowing skies greeted me when I got up on Saturday and light rain started falling as I was taking photos.

A stunning double rainbow to start the day

There's gold in them tree roots!
The cake stall raised $1100 for the Vanuatu appeal - a wonderful achievement from a community with less than 400 residents.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A busy weekend

A weekend of glorious weather, just perfect for a big effort out in the garden. The grass has been growing well, I had Bokashi to bury and the pile of firewood to cut up is only getting bigger as I drag more branches home.

Saturday was a slow start after a lovely sleep-in and a Skype session with my Mum; then it was outside with loppers and secateurs to attack the woodpile outside the woodshed. As with most jobs, I can't do one thing before I finish another and I need to move this pile of dry wood so that I can have a stab at the tyre retaining wall that's going in its place. Three hours of woodwork, by which time the grass had dried so I swapped the secateurs for the scrub-bar and managed to get 3 fuel-loads of cutting done before it got too dark.

Today I was off to an early start; another stunning morning at a cool 4°C which soon soared as the sun got up. I collected my tools with the intention of cutting more wood when I realised that it was silly to add more if the forecast rain arrived toward evening.

8am appointment at the woodshed
Now, to put the new wood under cover, I need to move the old wood first so I have dry wood to burn this winter. Hmm...

I've moved the big stuff that needs chopping round the corner, rigged up
a front on the middle bay so now need to move the kindling from
the left hand bay into the middle

All cleared by lunchtime - each bay is about 4 cubic metres and I jump on
the kindling to pack in as much as I can
A couple of hours later and I've picked up all the piles of kindling and rigged up a tarpaulin on the end of the woodshed. I was going to put a front on the left hand bay but put my brain into gear and have stacked the fresh wood that will need splitting there instead. It can weather over winter and hold the kindling in at the same time. Of course I forgot to take a photo after I finished - will fix that up this week :).

Another view of my Outpost kitset woodshed - sturdy and the only thing
better would be to have two of them!
I upset a few spiders by moving the old wood - they were grumpy but stood nice and still so I could take a few snaps.

Two large spiders - one living and one not

Close-up of dead spider

Huge abdomen with a beautiful pattern on this one

A yellow X on this one's abdomen

I think this is the same species as the top spider - can you see the wee
spider in the foreground?
I had planned on finishing the grass-cutting but didn't have enough petrol for a second load. Will take my scrub-bar down to the garage for a service and sharpen this week. I didn't get around to burying the Bokashi and my muscles feel like they've run a marathon; reckon it's early to bed so I wake up refreshed and energetic for a week of work!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Oh deer!

A good breeding season seems to have resulted in an explosion of deer visits around the village. I've been seeing them regularly here and often see them as I walk to work - last week a 'spiker' (a teenager just starting to grow horns) was at the bottom of Back Road and we exchanged 'foot stamps' before he barked and ran off.

I've been growing rhubarb for over 3 years and, up until last week, the deer hadn't touched it. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous due to high levels of oxalic acid and I just presumed that other animals would avoid eating it. Two of my rhubarb plants are unfenced and I've blithely picked them when they're ready and never thought about protecting them from visiting animals.

My 3 rhubarb clumps in January: one on right before garage door, one in
a mussel buoy at left and the third in the Tiptop cabinet at top
In the last few weeks I've picked the rhubarb from the garage and mussel buoy clumps and had intended using the Tiptop cabinet clump for rhubarb chutney. I was supposed to make this last Sunday but didn't have any red wine vinegar so went for a walk to the shop. They only had the white wine version so I decided to leave making chutney until after our dry goods delivery on Wednesday.

The deer had other plans!! On Tuesday I was outside talking on the phone and glanced at the rhubarb; instead of a mass of green leaves I was looking at the bush behind - someone had eaten the lot!

An hour later the culprit came back for another nibble...

Is the coast clear?

Yum... more rhubarb

It wasn't me!
I've got it all on video and even when I opened the ranchslider and stood out on the deck he was in two minds about whether to run or not. Far too cheeky to leave the rhubarb unprotected so I've dragged some netting around the cabinet.

No chutney for a while - just as well it grows quickly

Deer-proof fencing? I doubt it but it might keep them away for a while!
I'll now have to think how I can protect the mussel buoy clump now - maybe I should move to Fort Knox!

Growing well after being dug up and extra soil added
Mother Deer and her two fawns came visiting on Thursday night and stayed for a couple of hours; I watched them for a while but had lettuce seedlings and garlic to plant so grabbed my ukulele and started strumming. Mother Deer's ears pricked up and she wandered off to the edge of the bush. I opened the ranchslider a bit and strummed some more. The two fawns started walking toward me, stamping their feet - if I had the video going I would have got some excellent footage of the deer 'dancing' to my (bad) ukulele playing.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Kiwi central

Light rain on my day off means that I've caught up on inside jobs - I've made a big pot of vege soup, done some baking and ordered some reusable shopping bags from PouchProducts Limited. The one I've been using for the last 4 years or so came from Woolworths in New Plymouth and is 'laddering' at the seams. It's used 2-3 times a week along with mesh bags for my fruit and veges so potentially saving 6-10 bags a week. I'm on a personal crusade to reduce, re-use and recycle; it's pretty easy to say 'no' to plastic wherever possible and I hope that others will follow suit. It's estimated that New Zealanders use 1.14 billion bags a year - one plastic bag per person each day. Most end up somewhere in the environment where they will add to the pollution problem for decades (and possibly centuries) to come.

Another website offering string bags and reusable vege/fruit bags
It wasn't easy finding a replacement bag; most on offer seemed to be the bigger cloth bags which are fine for popping in the car but too big for my backpack. It wasn't until I added 'nylon' to 'nz reusable bag' that Google came up trumps. I chose NZ-made products and I'll let you know how good they are when they arrive.

Thursday evening was extra-special. It had been a beautiful sunny day and it didn't really get dark - the moon was rising as the sun was setting and it wasn't until 9.45pm that I needed to turn the light on. As I turned my head I saw a whitetail deer nibbling the grass by the deck steps, then another moved into view and yet a third. I stood by the ranchslider for 20 minutes or so and watched them in the moonlight - I reckon they were the same ones that ate the potato leaves last week. They didn't budge even when I turned the lights on and started cutting up some produce for the Bokashi bucket.

At 10.15pm a male kiwi called followed closely by a squeaky female - they weren't far from the house, possibly among the pile of firewood trimmings up near the boat. At 10.20pm a male kiwi called from the deck, loud and insistent. I turned the light off and slipped out on the deck to watch a shadowy kiwi strut around the grass and down by the bush. Five minutes later another male/female duet sounded out by the road - different to the first two so by my reckoning there was a family group of 5 kiwi - what a blast! I stood outside until I got too cold and went to bed grinning from ear to ear!

This morning I had a welcome sleep-in so it was 8.40am when I pulled up the blind on the bedroom window to see 3 whitetail jumping toward the house; a mother and her fawn, and maybe an older, darker coloured male. I just had time to grab the camera and snap these shots through the deck window before they disappeared into the bush.

Mother and fawn in centre, male (almost invisible) at left

Mother heading into the bush with fawn following

Male following the others but keeping his distance
I am so blessed to live in such a special place and invite the kiwi to come calling any time they like.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dry goods delivery day

Another lovely day on my island paradise; it's been a mixed bag of weather lately with showers, cloud and sunshine but today was all blue skies and hot temperatures. Great for the tourists and trampers. I got caught out on Monday when clear skies in the morning turned to persistent drizzle and at lunchtime I realised that I had left my raincoat and leggings at home - just as well Ship to Shore sells plastic ponchos for $4!

It's been a bit quieter in the shop this week but we're still having a lot of goods delivered. Today was dry goods day and I think I counted 11 pallets-worth of stock, along with a couple of ferry bins of bread and one of milk. It's all hands to the deck to unload the pallet before the forklift brings the next one from the ferry terminal; when everything's been unloaded we open up the boxes and re-stock the shelves and put any excess in the storeroom. Some boxes have yellow stickers on and these are a mixed lot of goods so it's a bit like opening a Christmas present to see what's inside - a few boxes of herbs and spices, two garlic crushers, some tins of tuna and some maple syrup! The mountain of toilet paper/paper towels by the freezer needs to be stacked up high so need to grab the ladder and hoist them up out of the way. Eventually everything is neat and orderly and the shelves are well-stocked for a wee while!

The ferry terminal - some ferry bins are over by the building

Looking back toward the village from the wharf - Ship to Shore is
out of the picture to the right
Autumn is fungi time and I saw a couple as I checked my rat traps at the weekend...

It will also be blackberry time though not for a few weeks by the look of these fruit...

My intention to cut out all the weeds as they flower has not eventuated and even the gorse and broom are getting away on me. I've stacked some of the wood in the woodshed but there's plenty more to go and now the grass needs cutting again - I've put in a request for a fine weekend so fingers crossed!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Wood work

My weekend was off to a slow start but the weather cleared after lunch on Saturday and I grabbed the loppers and secateurs and headed off to attack one of the many woodpiles that will keep me busy for a month of Sundays.

Woodpile #1

Woodpile #2
Woodpile #3 - now over 20m long
I started at the tyre end of the woodpile and by 9pm had made a decent pile of kindling-sized twigs and leaves, along with a pile of bigger stuff that I could cut with the loppers. Anything bigger than that will need either the bow saw or maybe even a chainsaw.

The birds kept me entertained whilst I snipped and lopped; a piwakawaka (fantail) checked out what I was doing and flitted about over my head. A few light showers breezed through which was a good excuse for having a cuppa and resting my fingers and wrists.

Going well - the kindling pile is about waist high

My first day of Autumn 2015 started off with a kiwi duet at 6.53am - the female was right outside the house and the answering male probably up near the road. Magic! It's going to be a great day!!

A quick shower and breakfast then wood time again. It was a cool and cloudy start but that's ideal weather for getting physical, unlike mid-afternoon when the sun came out and the temperature shot up to 30°C. I finished up at 8.30pm and could see a lot more grass!

Kindling pile now almost as tall as me

A beautiful Rakiura evening
The area I've cleared is a tiny percentage of what still needs to be done but I find it very satisfying to achieve it using hand tools and human power - no noisy machinery or fossil fuel required.