Sunday, September 27, 2015

Planting time

I need a break from building so decided that I wouldn't start another row of tyres. Instead I stuffed a bit more dirt into most of the tyres and then planted the eastern end with Libertia, a native iris species, and toetoe, Cortaderia richardii. The Libertia was given to me in a pot and had sent up lots of new baby offshoots so I'm hoping that they'll do the same in the tyres. The toetoe was given to me a few years back in small PB bags; I wasn't ready to plant them and after two summers of neglect they got planted out into a holding bed where they have flourished.

Lunchtime - all tyres filled at this end

Libertia on the top row, toetoe down below

View looking the other way
It's a shame that I've only learned the most efficient way of filling tyres after laying 50 of the dratted things. By propping the tyre walls open with two suitably-sized chunks of firewood, I can then ram the soil in a lot more effectively. This does have its own problem though as the tyres I've done this with are higher than their neighbours! I'm not sure how you work out how much a tyre will stretch as they all have different qualities.

These last few tyres are the only ones that are really well stuffed
The tyres are more noticeable now that they are filled and it was with a sinking sensation that I pondered whether I really want to be looking out at man-made items in a bush setting. It's a bit late to turn the clock back but I'll be thinking a lot harder about spoiling the view on future projects.

It was gloriously sunny today until mid-afternoon when the cloud came over and the wind picked up. I sat out in the sunshine with my morning coffee and gazed across the valley. A glimpse of yellow/orange glinted in the sunshine and I knew that it was Darwin's barberry without needing the binoculars. I'll have to take my Silky saw and a tube of Vigilant to deal to this flowering pest before it fruits.

Flowering barberry shown by red circle

Zoom of above - flowering barberry bush to the right of picture
I've been scanning the bush for barberry when I check my traps; I know the area well enough now to take a different path each day so should have the whole area clear of barberry by the time the flowers disappear. I still have the swamp to do though which isn't quite so easy - a pair of waders would be helpful!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Early daylight saving

I start work at 7am on Monday which could be a shock to the system if I put my clock forward on Saturday night. For the last couple of years I've started daylight saving a day earlier than everyone else but never two days like this year. I just need to keep away from my computer and television schedule until Sunday morning.

A few greenhood orchids have made an appearance at last but they have a way to catch up with some spider orchids which are in full flower.

Emerging Pterostylis (Greenhood orchid) - 20 September 2015

Flowering spider orchid
It's coming up to barberry hunt time; Darwin's barberry was brought to the island by the early settlers but I'm sure they didn't realise how quickly it would become a weed that threatened our native bush. The birds love the berries but then spread the plant throughout the bush where it is flourishing in a wide variety of environments - sunny, shady, wet, dry. In some places it grows so densely that all native growth is suppressed. The Department of Conservation advertises each Spring for temporary field workers to form a barberry team with a long-term aim to eradicate the weed on the island. I've been checking out my section and found a number of small seedlings; it's much easier to spot when it flowers but hopefully I haven't got any plants big enough for that.

The tui are getting more active - here are some feeding on a pussy willow tree down in Halfmoon Bay...

...and a few interesting things that I've come across as I've checked my traps.

Slime mould on tree stump

A fly feeding on slime - I wonder if it hatched out of the cases below

Monday, September 21, 2015

Clone required

My blogging has taken a back seat lately and I've lost my grip on remembering which photos I've put up, what my theme was going to be and whether I can recall what I did a fortnight ago! There always seems to be more work than hours in the day - or am I just getting slower? I apologise if the blogs are a bit disjointed as get up-to-date but I'd better get cracking as our tourist season (and longer hours at work) are just around the corner.

The tyre wall is slowly progressing; no more layers but 8½ more tyres were filled over the weekend. The soil I was filling them with has been too wet but I then had the brilliant idea that the soil that needs digging out under the garage would be dry and perfect for the tyres. It's quite satisfying being able to do two jobs at once but it would be even more satisfying if I could find a few clones to do the work with me!

Starting to dig out under the garage on Saturday

Sunday afternoon

Each tyre takes a heaped wheelbarrow's worth of dirt rammed in
My hands and wrists get sore trying to stretch the tyre with one hand and ram the soil with the other. To give them a break I decided to empty the ice-cream freezer that used to have a flourishing rhubarb plant growing. With no foliage to keep the rain out the freezer had filled up with water and was growing rat-tailed maggots (drone fly babies) and starting to smell. Not sure who told the blowflies but it didn't take long before their buzz filled the air and gave me an entertaining time trying to get a good photo of their iridescent blue and purple bodies!

Wet and smelly soil heap - it had a couple of possums buried in it!

Emptied and tipped over to drain - will have to put in some better drainage
before filling it up again

I think this is the native blue blowfly, Calliphora quadrimaculata
- about 12mm in length

Lovely shades of blue/purple in the sunshine
My fun time had to end and it was back to the tyres. I'm getting better at filling them but no matter how tight they feel at the end of the day, there's always soft patches the following morning. I guess the water in the soil evaporates in the sunshine but at this rate I'll be ramming more dirt in for years to come.

I've had a few kiwi visitors lately - lovely to hear them calling during the night or seeing their footprints in the mud.

A kiwi footprint alongside my size 5 gumboot print

These are super-fresh prints

Kiwi on my boundary track

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Spring walk to Horseshoe Bay

I woke to hail showers last Saturday so decided another walk would be more productive than filling tyres with muddy soil. This time I set off to walk the Back Road track; up past the quarry, through the muddy bush track and down on to Horseshoe Bay. The sun came out for lengthening periods so it was very pleasant slow-walking and looking closely at what was happening in the ngahere (bush).

Ten minutes after leaving home Back Road curls around to the left and heads up to a privately-owned quarry. The bank at the side of the road is full of interesting flora...

Something's been eating these leaves

this is what they are supposed to look like

A false morel fungus, Gyromitra tasmanica, not edible

Crustose lichen fruiting body?, Baeomyces spp

A deep puddle with algae growing in it

Not sure if it's the toxic blue green algae - it didn't look very nice
After the quarry, the metal road peters out to a bush track which can be quite muddy in places. The trees arch over the track which remind me of a cathedral - Mother Nature quietly builds such wonderful structures without power tools, mechanical devices or rubbish skips!

The start of the track - looking back toward the quarry

This orchid should be in flower in the next couple of months

The Horseshoe Bay end of the track is the muddiest
It's a short 150m from the track end down on to the sweeping bay with its white sand...

Looking west along Horseshoe Bay

Looking east from the same spot

The community nursery grows native plants for $2 each
Horseshoe Bay usually has a great selection of intact shells and is a favoured place to walk the dogs and play beach golf. The bay is about a kilometre long so plenty of space to experience the elements.

A beautiful volute shell - about 150mm long

A seagull meeting

The east end of the beach was full of these 'worm casts' (see below)

Friday, September 4, 2015

The orchids are stirring...

I've taken advantage of the wetter weather to explore the bush and road side banks and am thrilled to see some orchids pushing their way through the soil. There's always plenty of interesting things to see but I miss them usually when I walk too quickly so it's been great to get back into slow walking again. Of course, the tyre retaining wall doesn't get done so I'd better keep my work/play in balance by working extra hard this weekend!

Thelymitra (sun orchids) sprouting forth

These small spider orchids are popping out on a bank just down the road
A dark-coloured grub on Dibaeis baeomyces, a lichenised fungi

Dibaeis baeomyces on clay bank

A yellow-brown helmet variety

Green rosette of ???
The tyre wall is progressing slowly - just when I think I've filled a tyre to capacity I discover more air bubbles. The fill is pretty wet too so I guess holes will appear as it dries out too. I think I'll have sore hands and wrists for some time yet!

29 August: third row laid out

Looking good

Pretty straight - more by accident than design!