Sunday, June 28, 2015

Plan B

Well, I didn't see that coming! After posting the last blog I headed outside; the wind had dropped a bit but I was totally taken by surprise when the rain pelted down. Hmmm. I spent the next half an hour cowering in the woodshed before heading back into the warmth of the woodburner. Unlike me the little ngirungiru seemed unperturbed by the weather and danced around me as I broke up kindling - have humankind just got soft as it's progressed from cave man to couch potato?

Plan B is to post another blog and hopefully by the time I've finished, our changeable weather will have turned back to dry and breezy. I have bait to change on the rat traps and had another woodpile that I wanted to process and get under cover. If it's still wet and windy then I'll make some focaccia bread and prepare dinners for the next three days when I'm working 'lates'.

Last Tuesday's weather was very different; a huge frost to start the day and I left home early so I could get some photos down on the waterfront. The mud puddles on the drive were covered with a thick slab of ice and there were some icy patches on the tar seal further down the road. It was low tide at Halfmoon Bay and the red seaweed was white with frost.

Frosty morning 23 June 2015 

Close-up of frosty seaweed
The prettiest part of the morning was watching the sun rise over the Bay with water vapour creating mist as the sun's rays lit up the water.

Sunrise over the ferry terminal

Smoky water around the boats on Halfmoon Bay
The cool start gave way to a beautiful sunny morning so warm that we had to open the doors to the shop. Even this wee fungi seemed to lift its head up to the sunshine...

I can see blue patches out one window and dark grey clouds out the other. Will keep my fingers crossed for getting my traps rebaited in the dry and leave you with yesterday's work on my new woodboxes.

The heap of branches now sawn up but where to put the overflow now that
the woodbox is full

Solution: build a new woodbox!

Chocolate wars

It's a fine and windy morning and I should be outside checking that nothing's blown away. Some of the wind gusts have been very strong but the local weather station is stuck on yesterday's data so I can't check the speeds. It's warm and cosy inside so will procrastinate a bit longer and put this blog up whilst I have a coffee.

Work at the 4 Square is much quieter at this time of year; some hunters, trampers and tourists prefer the off-season and it's nice to chat to them when they come in the shop. Our winter hours are 7.30am to 6.30pm so there's usually time to get stuck into cleaning the shop shelves and checking dates on stock. Delivery times are disrupted for a few months over winter as some ferry sailings get dropped. Our Wednesday dry-goods delivery remains unchanged though and there's still plenty coming in, including lots of new chocolate flavours.

Cleaning time - take everything off the shelf, clean, check dates
and prices, then pop everything back in its right place

Jules reigns supreme in the chocolate display area and, at last count, we had 42 different chocolate flavours on show. Harking back to Douglas Adam's 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' I'm pondering whether our chocolate display has something to do with the meaning of life! I'm a fan of Lindt Chilli chocolate but up until now have had to wait until I'm off island to be able to buy it.

Whittaker's have come out with a new Artisan collection including a chilli chocolate called Kaitaia Fire; Fern ordered in my Lindt favourite so the two chocolates could battle it out for supreme champion. A German friend told me a number of years ago that the only way to eat chocolate was to let it melt in the mouth - no chewing! Although Kaitaia Fire is yummy, Lindt remains my favourite but having it in the shop is now too tempting!!

The wind seems to have abated and I've finished my drink but before I head outside a quick update on my deer defences: the bird netting fence has worked well so far. Touch wood that it continues as the rhubarb has just started coming away again!

Rhubarb plot #1

Rhubarb plot #2

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Winter solstice

My four-day weekends are a lot more productive and it's great to see actual progress happening on the section despite the soggy conditions. The winter storm that brought flooding to many parts of Aotearoa whipped over Rakiura on Wednesday night and although we've had about 10mm rain most days for a week or so, it's far less than New Plymouth (96mm yesterday) and Whanganui with 88mm. Kia kaha to all those affected by the flooding and I hope the sun shines soon for you.

It was also interesting comparing sunrise/sunset times (found on the MetService website) for the shortest day...
        Auckland: sunrise 7.34am, sunset 5.12pm
New Plymouth: sunrise 7.42am, sunset 5.08pm
      Wellington: sunrise 7.45am, sunset 5.01pm
   Christchurch: sunrise 8.02am, sunset 5.01pm
     Invercargill: sunrise 8.31am, sunset 5.06pm
...I thought both sunrise and sunset times would be affected but looks like we just miss out on an hour of light in the morning!

I was on firewood duty again this weekend; I sawed, stacked and moved a heap of branches and also put a roof on the lean-to and made a couple of covered drying areas out of pallets and tarpaulins.

Tools of the trade for cutting up the branches

New roof on the lean-to plus a drying area for kindling

Pallets come in really useful for makeshift woodsheds
I hadn't intended clearing this area behind the woodshed but I could have a load of soil being delivered so needed to move it out of the way...

This heap has now gone - most of it to the large woodpile on the drive
Of course, working with wet and rotting wood means that there are photo opportunities too!

Hedgehog jelly, Pseudohydnum gelatinosum

Yellow slime mould with 'wriggler' and pink collembola

Unusual fungi - haven't worked out what this one is yet

Bright yellow fungi - looks like sulphur

My little friend checking out the sawhorse

A watery sun hiding behind the rimu trees at 10.30am - it doesn't rise in
the sky very much at this time of year

A native weevil - identified by Stephen on NatureWatch as a species
of Psepholax or Pit weevil

Noticeable ginger facial 'hair'

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Gorgeous Goo

The woodpiles are treasure troves packed full of interesting 'stuff' and sometimes I spend more time taking photos than doing work. Slime moulds and lichens come in lots of different shapes and colours and often there are critters feeding on them. Here are some photos of things that took my fancy...

Spot the 'wrigglers' swimming in the primeval soup

This one looks like a small Christmas pudding

Multi-coloured tree round

Close-up of above

Purple goo with close-ups below

More 'wrigglers' on gooey gum branches

A white mite

Is this a newly-hatched mosquito?

Close-up of a brown and white wriggler

Lots of life amongst the white fungi

Slime mould on gum branch

Close-up of white slime mould

Orange critters
 With so many critters around it's no wonder that many birds are interested in the woodpile. The two piwakawaka (fantails) are a joy to watch as they perform their aerial ballet. A beautifully-speckled thrush and two blackbirds are often around as well as the ngirungiru who often flies within a couple of inches of where I'm working. I also came across this wee chappie as I got near the bottom of one pile of wood...

Can you spot it?

The introduced Whistling frog, Litoria ewingii

The cooler temperatures mean less fungi on the forest floor but I've found a number of colonies of Snowy porebracket, Gloeoporus phlebophorus, their bright white colour standing out in the gloom. The following pics have the porebracket on one side of a dead trunk and a green fungi with a similar shape on the other side. Will have to search online for more information.

Finally a lacy wee moth on the Mikroclima cloth had me scratching my head for an identification. I posted it on NatureWatch as it had similarities to the Australian moth Uraba lugens, Gum-leaf Skeletoniser which is a notifiable organism. I only took a couple of photos and am kicking myself that I didn't study it in more detail - it would make it a lot easier to identify!