Saturday, August 22, 2015

Weekend work plan part 2

It's not often I groan every time I move but I'm doing it at present. I've had three productive days out in the garden but today's effort was made harder by summer temperatures - a gorgeous 22°C but it sure did sap my energy. I love winter here as the weather's generally settled and I don't usually get too hot; today would have been t-shirt and shorts weather if it hadn't been for the hungry sandflies!

Today I finished chopping all the rimu - well, apart from a few gnarly pieces that will have to wait until I've got more muscles. It's great to have that job out of the way and the chopped wood can weather outside until I've dug out under the garage. I've also filled all the tyres in the second row although I'll have to go back and see if I can stuff more dirt into the tyres once the moisture has drained away.

Friday morning: digging out for the second layer

Friday afternoon: second row in place

Friday afternoon: tyre wall from western end
The wall is going well despite a slight 'downhill' drop in the eastern end; I'm not sure how to fix this but can try to fudge it a bit on the third level. I was careful to get each adjoining tyre level with its neighbour but I didn't realise the difference in rim flexibility when they are stuffed with dirt - some tyres are thinner-walled and they 'stretch' out more.

Friday afternoon: tyre wall from eastern end

Saturday afternoon: all tyres filled

Saturday afternoon: rimu woodpile - all done!
The warm temperature was a timely reminder to get as much work done as possible before summer's here. If I can finish the tyre wall over the next few weeks then I can get plants in and can then spend hot summer's days sitting in the shade with a cold drink! Talking of drinks, I've been indulging in a few craft beers after Ship to Shore got some Harrington's Beer in. Thumbs up to Harrington's for making a 6-pack (each 330ml) with 6 different beers - I wouldn't have been tempted otherwise. They also do a range of 500ml bottles including this one...

A very nice drop and similar to the Bock I used to homebrew - it went down a treat after a hard day's work!

Not much time for sightseeing today but I did notice this lovely orb-web glinting in the late afternoon sunshine.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Weekend work plan

One day of my weekend gone already but I'm well pleased with today's efforts - apart from clonking my shin when a log hit it; thank goodness for arnica cream!

The day was mostly fine and sunny with a few clouds rolling through and threatening rain which never got past a light sprinkling. After taking a look at the mud around the tyres I decided to spend the day on essential firewood duties. Despite a 4°C start it didn't take long to work up a sweat and reduce polar-fleece layers to one. I'm a tad light on super-dry wood but with chopping larger chunks into smaller bits it should dry out quicker - that's all in the right hand bay below. I had some long branches stored that were nice and dry so those got sawn up and added to the pile. I have plenty of kindling (middle bay) so will mix that with the bigger stuff and have my fingers crossed that there will be enough to last the rest of this year.

Lunchtime - finished the woodshed work, now on to the rimu

The rimu rounds that I carried out of the bush last weekend need to be chopped as soon as possible as they'll get harder when they dry out. A few hours with the axe was productive with perhaps 75% of the stack done. My little ngirungiru came close to getting clonked when he flew into view just as I chucked some wood on the pile. Luckily his reflexes were faster than mine but I was a lot more careful after that!

I'm a lumberjill???

The carpet works really well to stop the ground getting muddy

Next step is to dig out the middle bay of the garage so I can store this heap

Site supervisor, Mr Ngirungiru, doing health and safety checks
I watched George Clarke's 'Amazing Spaces' tonight and was very taken with a similar-sized house to my one here (49 sq m) but with a very different look. The eco-house is called the FiNCUBE and is a glass cube with timber slats - now wouldn't that look good tucked in the bush?

Friday, August 14, 2015

More kiwi

Another week of gorgeous weather with frosty mornings and stunning days; it's easy to see why I love winter down here. Rakiura/Stewart Island generally escapes the snow and extreme chills of the southern half of the South Island and has an average winter temperature of 9.9°C. I reckon it's a great time of year to visit despite some of the tourist businesses being closed.

One of the biggest advantages of this time of year is that you don't have to wait until 11pm for the kiwi to wake up. I was working 'lates' this week and try to rely on my night vision rather than a torch when walking home so I don't disturb the nightlife. Last Monday I was followed down my driveway by a kiwi - I heard the pitter-patter of kiwi feet when I stopped at the woodshed and then watched from the deck steps as it walked past. No doubt the excavations for the tyre wall are an attraction for a bird that loves worms!

A number of different-sized kiwi prints by the tyres
The tyre wall is progressing well; I spent yesterday filling tyres and am now ready to tackle the second layer. Today was firewood day as the neighbour returned to cut the rest of the felled rimu into rounds and I spent the day carrying the cut trunk and branches out of the stagnant pool, up the bank and stacking them up for chopping and trimming. Mark had made a floating 'bridge' from the branches so I could cross the water - of course it didn't take long to step into a gap and fill one gumboot up with muddy water, followed a couple of hours later by the other! Mr & Mrs Ngirungiru were there to enjoy the entertainment...

The male at top left and the female, in more muted
shades at bottom right

Who's the king of the castle? Ngirungiru on horoeka (lancewood)
I've still got the second tree to pick up and bring out of the bush so, weather permitting, will be back out there tomorrow - it would be great to clone myself a couple of times so I could get the wood cleared and the tyre wall built at the same time.

A bank-full of chainsawed rimu to clear

Branches across the pond

Tomorrow's work
Being outside means I notice more than when I'm inside; the beating of kereru (native pigeon) wings, the ducks flying swiftly from A to B - and watching a korimako (bellbird) visit a small divaricating Coprosma bush. I had a closer look after it flew away and discovered a number of green berries that the korimako was feeding on.

The small Coprosma bush

Close-up showing green berries
Another close-up was of a critter that was on a rimu log that was submerged in the water; I thought it was a tadpole at first but on closer inspection I think it's the larval form of a red damselfly.

About 15mm long - had a flattened end to its 'tail'


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Blog #300

When I started this blog I had no idea that I would reach 300 in such a short time. It's just over 4½ years since I moved here to live among the kiwi and to make a concerted effort to reduce my footprint on this wonderful planet. It's been great sharing my adventure and a big thank you to readers of this blog and for the comments and encouragement you have given.

The weather's been wetter for this week's break from work but whenever the sun shines between showers I've been out working on the tyre wall and sloshing in the mud. I've discovered why you're supposed to start at the lowest point and although my technique for using a string level was laughable, it seems to have done the trick so I could work from left to right - much easier to keep the digging level.

A rainbow to start the day

Starting at the left hand end and hoping that my string lines are correct
so the two ends match up properly


Do they look level?

Late afternoon and working out levels for the next row

Time to clean up and cook dinner - lots of filling to do tomorrow
Digging in this soil is easy but a tad distressing as I disturb the native milk worms, Octochaetus multiporus, which then 'bleed' - initially white fluid which is sometimes followed by red. I love having the worms around as that's what brings the kiwi, so try not to dig into their homes. An interesting article on these worms can be found here.

Native milk worm, Octochaetus multiporus
A couple of other things caught my attention and made me peel off my muddy gloves to grab the camera...

Still trying to work this one out - she moved fast so hard to photograph

This fungi was much easier to snap - isn't it pretty?

Ranged in colour from white to salmon

Close-up - this will be one for NatureWatch

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Surprise visitors

Tap, tap, tap! That's the noise I heard last Monday night around 8.45pm; the tv was on and with double-glazed windows I'm surprised I heard it at all. The last time there were noises from the deck it was a possum and with that in mind, I grabbed the torch and headed outside. A quick sweep revealed not one, but two kiwi - one down the bottom of the deck and the other about 5m away probing in the mossy ground. Magic! I quickly turned the torch off, thanked them for visiting and headed back inside, grinning like a Cheshire cat. The kiwi by the deck must have tapped on the decking to let me know they were out there. I am so lucky to be living here!

Maybe the kiwi were admiring my new deck feature that I completed on Sunday. After scrubbing the deck on Saturday, I spent the following day stapling netting to the steps and revamping the ramp at the bottom. The handrail needs finishing off but I need to bolt the post in first.

Netting down, now to attack the rickety ramp

The site supervisor inspecting my work

Hmm, any worms here?

The site supervisor checking me out!

The finished job

Looking from the top - see the ngirungiru on the post

A nice sturdy ramp and handrail post makes for an easier climb
Not a lot of progress on the tyre wall. My expert came round at the weekend and gave me some advice, along with this plan...

My four day weekend started today but so did the rain. I managed to get some digging in before it got too heavy and managed to snap this photo of Mr & Mrs Ngirungiru (male on right, female on left)...

...and this large porina moth caterpillar which was very active, about 70mm in length and due to pupate very soon. The adult moth will emerge from the soil around October-November, mate immediately and lay up to 3000 eggs on pasture during its short life (about 4 days).

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Tyre progress

Another 4-day weekend and the weather has been great for getting outside. The tyre wall got bigger on Thursday and Friday but I feel that I'm making things up as I go. Is all DYI like this?

The western end: first layer completed and finished with a tractor tyre

Western end looking east: started on the second layer but not yet filled

My solution for coping with the slope up to the tractor tyre
The tyres continue to be level with a slight backward slope; there's been a lot of pondering and discussion with the ngirungiru about how I get things right. Now that the tyres are in place I find it easier to visualise the tyre next door although this doesn't work when there's just bare grass to look at.

This morning dawned crisp and sunny so I was up early to attack the eastern end. We had 10mm rain overnight and I wondered if the bottom row of tyres would be miniature swimming pools as I had rammed earth into the interior. Good to see that the water had drained away but my enthusiasm was dampened when I didn't have a wide enough space to sit the tyre on; should I build up the front with fill OR did I need to start a tyre row down lower? The sensible solution was to send a text asking my expert to call in over the weekend - and I set about cleaning the deck instead!

Early morning and 3°C - it got up to 17°C by midday
It's been a long time since I cleaned the deck and well overdue. I usually make up a bleach solution but with my tomtit friend flitting around I didn't want to risk burning his feet so used water, scrubbing brush and good old-fashioned muscle power instead.

Unsightly and slippery black patches

Guess which half I've cleaned!

Finished! Now I can put some netting down to make the steps safer.
The ngirungiru kept me company all day and was joined a couple of times by his friend, the female. I managed to catch a couple of photos from a distance - maybe she'll come closer next time.

Rats! She flew off as I pressed the button!

My best photo so far of the female ngirungiru (tomtit)