Saturday, July 25, 2015

Started at long last...

After 14 months of procrastination my tyre retaining wall is finally started - yay! It was a stunning day with a heavy frost to start; blue skies and sunshine soon had the mercury rising. Despite the fine weather, I was apprehensive about starting such a big challenge but I decided that any attempt couldn't be worse than stacks of tyres outside the garage. So, here goes...

Starting my tyre wall project - 10.40am
My neighbour suggested laying some tyres down the slope and that's helped me visualise where I needed to start. I think I'm supposed to start at the lower end but without an eye for levels I decided to start in the middle so it's easier to juggle tyre widths.
10.50am: Turf, dig a patch that's level right to left but slopes slightly front to back
It soon became apparent that my straight line wasn't parallel to the poles where I want the tyre wall to go so I put in a string line - no doubt I'll learn a lot of short cuts by the time I've finished. It wasn't hard to choose the placement of the first tyre; a manuka stump would need digging out if I didn't put the tyre to its side. By lunchtime I had three tyres down - all level and sloping slightly backwards.

Lunchtime - slow and steady with lots of thinking inbetween

Lunchtime on a beautiful winter's day - temperature range 2-21°C
The ngirungiru (tomtit) wasn't far away as turfing exposed lots of grubs and worms. Just after lunch he brought a friend; a wee female who joined him on the wheelbarrow and hopped close to me when I didn't have my camera - and flew away when I did! She's a muddier brown colour with orange feet but just as curious. Great to see that he's got a mate and lovely to hear them call to each other throughout the afternoon.


2.50pm: four tyres down, 3 of them filled with soil

4pm: five tyres levelled, turves spread in the foreground to even out the bumps

4pm: another view, nice and level despite the difference in tyres
So far, so good - the varying heights and diameters of the tyres and the slope of the ground have had me scratching my head a number of times. I was tempted to leave the tyres unfilled so they were easier to move if I had to, but the soil's easier to work if it's not left sitting in a pile. I'm hoping my work rate will speed up as I get more adept at judging levels and choosing the right tyre from the 96 I have.

I dug up a Pam's potato chip wrapper - I wonder how old it is? Will have to check at work next week as I can't recall seeing this packaging for a while.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Winter bush walks

The Fuchsia Walk is a short walk five minutes from the waterfront. It's easier than navigating the steep and narrow road over to Golden Bay and often it's alive with birdsong. The native tree fuchsia, Fuchsia excorticata, kotukutuku, gives the walk its name and are some of the biggest I've seen. The fuchsia are deciduous here so quite sculptural with their orange-tinted trunks and branches

Winter is a quieter time in our temperate rainforest - I couldn't see any fungi by the path and the birds must have had a meeting somewhere else so I concentrated on the ferns that had spores ripening. So many different spore patterns - here are just a few.

Something else that caught my eye was hanging clubmoss, Phlegmariurus varius - not only because of its unusual growth format (the photo is of a single plant) but its name has been reviewed three times; Hugh Wilson's 'Stewart Island Plants Field Guide' has it as Lycopodium varia, then updated to Huperzia varia and then changed again to Phlegmariurus varius in 2013. It's hard for a newbie like me to follow but NatureWatch is great for keeping me up to date.

Fern Gully is another lovely bush walk a bit further out of town but well worth the extra walking. It follows Mill Creek so it will be muddy and there are charming footbridges to cross. The end of the track (about 20 mins) opens out into a large clearing which has a well-placed wooden seat to enjoy the birdlife.

The clearing at the end of the track

Mill Creek

Fern Gully Track

Footbridge over Mill Creek

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Winter beachcombing

Winter school holidays aren't generally the time for sunshine and warm temperatures. The many visitors to Stewart Island over the last fortnight experienced all four seasons in fewer days; Monday began with a huge frost followed by blue skies and warm sunshine; Tuesday brought an even bigger frost but heavy cloud all day made for bleak conditions and extra layers of thermals. I stoked the fire up when I got home from work but overnight the wind changed bringing warm temperatures and an over-heated house - the day was balmy, calm and more like summer with both shop doors open and ice-cream stocks running low.

Sunrise on Tuesday morning

...with probably the biggest frost since I moved here
With lovely weather and four-day weekends it's been fun to grab my camera and slow-walk along the beach and bush tracks. Come and join me!

First up was beachcombing on Halfmoon Bay at low tide. At first glance the beach is relatively bare - white sand with a retaining wall of rocks at the far end. Look closer though and there's a whole new world to explore...

Halfmoon Bay at low tide looking west

Peeking underneath the boat sheds - the red seaweed is great for the garden 

North east view of Halfmoon Bay

This juvenile black-backed gull is heading off to do some shopping!
Seaweeds wash up on the beach when the easterly is blowing - there are so many different types.

A knotted mass at the end of the frond - ? the holdfast

This red seaweed is pale green on some fronds - not sure if this is
the new growth or from bleaching

Looking like rimu fronds - I think this is Caulerpa brownie

This one's easier to identify - sea lettuce, one of the 10 Ulva species found here

Maybe Marginariella boryana

A baby Gummy weed, Splachnidium rugosum
Some other things caught my eye; firstly some rocks...

Was this an anchor stone with a large groove cut in?

Seams of ?quartz sandwiched in the grey rock

Tic-tac-toe for the fish??

Beautiful sand patterns with white and black sand
and these beauties

Big oysters around here!

A large paua shell on the beach

A biscuit star, Asterodon spp

Close-up of biscuit star - isn't it gorgeous!
What a great way to spend an hour or two in the winter sunshine; next on the list is slow walking in the bush - see the next blog.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Wood update

It's a stunning morning with one of the heaviest frosts I've seen. The extra sunlight is streaming through the lounge and although I should be outside making the most of the fine weather before I start work at midday, my body is telling me that it wants to take things easy. My fingers have taken a hammering lately and wee splits around the nail keep opening up - will have to take better care of them in the future!

The large pile of chopped wood is hiding under Jack Frost and I need to dig some dirt out under the garage so it can weather under cover. I started yesterday and it was easy going all the time I could reach the dirt whilst standing outside; I've now got to crouch down underneath the garage so can see a few bangs to the head coming up.

My firewood mountain by the end of Sunday
The wee ngirungiru (tomtit) was tempting fate by hovering close by as I chopped the wood. My axing skills aren't under control and wood can go flying at any time. In the end I gave up axing and dug the yams instead. Just as well the shop sells yams as I wouldn't survive for long on the handful that I got. Blame the deer for eating the tops!!

Yam harvest for 2015!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Tree apology

I'm passionate about saving native bush so feel bad about my day's activity which involved cutting down four rimu that were blocking the winter sun. When I first moved here there was a row of rimu planted about 20m from the house; fine through the summer but from late April they blocked the low winter sun; five of them were cut down in May 2011 which provided a gap for afternoon sun. With shorter hours at work (I now have 11 mornings a fortnight at home), the time had come to drop a few more so that the house would get the morning sun as well. The rimu that are left do block a bit of sun but I've left them for the birds that like to perch up high.

Before the neighbour turned up with his chainsaw

One tree down and now sun on the grass

Third tree down

Last tree falling down

More sunshine can get through to dry things out
I've spent the rest of the day carting the wood rings out of the bush and chopping them with the axe. Last time I left the logs laying with their tops on for a year to dry out but had trouble splitting it. My neighbour has kindly chainsawed the trunks into manageable rings and it's been easy splitting so far.

Tree rings aplenty

Rimu 'bleeds' from the cut bark...

...and drips onto the axed wood; sorry tree!

Lovely sunshine mid-afternoon

Lovely firewood for next year
My resident ngirungiru spent the day checking out what we were doing - he even offered to do some chopping for me...