Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Turning the tide on yellow

I must have been looking at my section with rose-tinted glasses as I've totally ignored the sea of yellow that is flooding the front part of the property. Flowering gorse and broom, along with rampant blackberry and the odd Darwin's barberry bush make for a colourful but noxious problem that I couldn't shut my eyes to any longer.

Yellow waves of gorse and broom creeping towards the house

Flowering gorse that's higher than me

Yellow on the driveway as well

Flowering and early fruits on Darwin's barberry

The boat's being swallowed up by gorse
Armed with a Silky saw and secateurs I headed into the wilderness toward the colour yellow. The blackberry grows over the top of the bracken and if you duck down then you can see kiwi-sized tunnels underneath. I'm seeing a lot of kiwi sign around and I was tempted to use them as an excuse not to get rid of the blackberry!

Tunnels under the bracken

A wall of blackberry rising over my head

Looking north across the swamp - spot the yellow!

Clearing the yellow from the driveway
There might be less yellow but the grass didn't get cut and I'm no further on with the tyre wall. Maybe next weekend...

Tui raids and clematis

My new smartphone may be a step forward in technology but using it as a wifi hotspot, and connecting it to a Bluetooth handset, uses battery at an eye-watering rate. Instead of encouraging me to explore its new features, I'm afraid I've rejected its wasteful use of power and now pick up a book rather than get online to write blogs!

My time for catching up on section work will be harder now as the island winds up for its summer season. Most of our visitors come between Labour Weekend (October) to Easter (late March/April); some to tramp the Rakiura Track Great Walk, a number will be cruise ship day visitors, the crib-owners will be down for their summer holidays and lots of tourists come to discover one of New Zealand's best kept secrets. I know I'm biased but there's not many places in New Zealand where you see two tui raids, flowering native clematis and kiwi footprints - all in the 15 minute walk to work this morning!

Wonderful clumps of native clematis flowering throughout the bush

Can you spot the flowering clematis across the valley?
Tui raids are amazing and well worth making the trip here in October, despite the changeable weather. Tui get very possessive of 'their' food trees (mostly the native fuchsia) and guard them jealousy - woe betide any bird that comes in for a nibble. But when tui band together in flocks of 100 or more, the resident pair have no show of protecting their tree. The only sounds you hear are the beating of wings and occasionally a mewing (?crying) noise from the tui trying to fend them off. With fuchsia trees either side of Main Road, often I'll get caught in the flock flying across the road - I put some video up last year in this blog.

Spring is also orchid time; the chiloglottis orchids are starting to push through the soil but I've yet to see a greenhood orchid flower so far, they're much later than last year. There are lots of spider orchids around and lots of green spikes which will be flowering sun orchids in a couple of months.

Small Chiloglottis cornuta orchids pushing through

Close-up of chiloglottis orchid leaves - the flower will come later

These fungi are found in the same patch as the chiloglottis orchids - I
wonder if they are symbiotic?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Weather - and whether the plane's on time

Gales and disrupted flight and ferry schedules makes travel a tad more challenging so I'm very grateful to the Weather Gods for coming up trumps on Thursday morning for a calm flight to Invercargill. My annual dental check was postponed in September when low cloud closed both our airstrip and Invercargill Airport and I was fearing that gale-force winds might disrupt my appointment again.

The gales have caused some damage around the village; trees down, windows blown in and some roofing iron off. I came very close to abandoning the house after some huge gusts but luckily the roof stayed on - I didn't get much sleep though. The shade house got battered again and I've got more firewood after some trees and branches came down. The bush is littered with stripped branches and leaves but Mother Nature will use all of this extra debris to foster new growth - if only people were as efficient at recycling!

With a clean bill of health for my teeth I had plenty of time to explore Invercargill and work on my shopping list. The weather was fine and breezy on Thursday and early Friday morning but the wind changed later on bringing showers and light rain for my trip back home. Here are some Spring pics from the stunning Queens Park...

Young tuatara near one of his/her tunnels - these ones move fast

An older tuatara

It was good to be able to chat with the Spark techies face to face; my new phone is working fine but Bluetooth and setting it up as a wifi hotspot chews through the battery in less than 16 hours. The technical specs state that it has a non-replaceable battery lasting 400 charges which, by my calculations, means that it won't last much longer than a year. I was relieved when the Spark techie reassured me that the battery was covered under the two year warranty so maybe I'll use these new-fangled devices a bit more now.

More on my Invercargill jaunt in the next blog!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Super Super 15 Trophy

We had an extra-special addition on the check-out at work last week. Tony Brown was on the island and he brought along the Super 15 Rugby Trophy that the Highlanders won last year. Stewart Island missed out when it was taken on tour around Otago and Southland in July last year but it was well worth the surprise when Tony carried it in. It spent a fun 24 hours in the shop before being taken over to the South Sea Hotel - lots of photo opportunities for everyone.

Tony Brown with the trophy

A stunning addition to our front counter

Owner-operator of Ship to Shore Four Square, Sam Jenkinson
I've been looking online for the history of the cup: Wikipedia has this...

On 30 June 2011, SANZAR unveiled the new trophy that will be presented to the winners of the Super Rugby final scheduled for Saturday, 9 July 2011.
The trophy, which will be in use from 2011 and beyond, was crafted from solid stainless steel and polished to a mirror finish. It has a height of 65 cm and a mass of 18 kilograms.
The trophy was designed by the company responsible for the 2000 Olympic Torch, Blue Sky Design of Sydney. The trophy was manufactured by Box and Dice Pty Ltd also based in Sydney.
SANZAR CEO, Greg Peters, said “The shape of the trophy is centred around three curved legs, each representing the Conferences involved in the Super Rugby competition.”
According to Peters, “The champions trophy is the 'big one', and will become the ultimate symbol of Super Rugby supremacy in the years to come.”
The colour on each leg corresponds to the Conferences with gold for Australia, black for New Zealand, and green for South Africa.

And ESPN The conference trophies are unique to the respective country, with the panels inside the three curved legs, representing the three nations, coloured in black for New Zealand, green for South Africa and gold for Australia. The legs of the trophy reach upward referencing the arms of players in a lineout, and the legs also create the shape of a rugby ball in the centre of the trophy. The top of each trophy has a cup to allow for the tradition of a celebratory drink.
SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said it was pertinent that the respective winners be presented with a trophy for their achievements. "The new Finals format, with six teams involved, also means that a non-Conference winner could claim overall honours and the Super Rugby champion's trophy," Peters said. "The chosen trophy design reflects the core elements of Rugby - tradition, physical toughness, camaraderie, and skill."

Its weight seems differ: it's impressively heavy and definitely over 15kg but Wikipedia has it as 18kg and this article has it at 28kg. Whatever its weight, the winners must have stronger muscles than me as they manage to lift it over their heads single-handed!

There will be a new trophy for 2016 which means the Highlanders will keep the 2011 version in their trophy cabinet forever.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Requiem for old technology

Gale force winds are battering both my wee home and the brand new daffodils that had the temerity to open yesterday. It's been relatively calm through winter so it's a bit of a shock to the system to be battening down the hatches and tying ropes over anything that could blow away. The bush is getting a bit of a pasting on the windward side but deeper in there's an uneasy calm and not much birdsong. I've taken advantage of the weather and spent most of the day sorting out my new comms equipment that has finally arrived.

There is no landline cable along the road so although the house has phone jacks and a cable out to the road, that's where it ends. I rely on mobile broadband but need a Yagi aerial on the roof to get a signal inside and used to rush outside if I got a phone call. My phone bill is about the same as my electricity bill ($130/mth) and although it worked fine for the technology when I first moved here, Spark's plans don't cater for non-smartphones and very slow connections.

My new setup consists of a Spark R83 phone which has a direct aerial connection for the Yagi and also acts as a wifi hotspot. I've paired it with a Uniden XDECT handset that uses Bluetooth so I have a cordless handset that theoretically works up to 100m from its base unit. So far it's working fine apart from a couple of dropped internet connections and one phone call - but maybe it's the wind that's causing the signal to swirl a bit too much!

My new Spark R83

Uniden XDECT handset
I'll be saving $40/mth for the next two years, increasing to $60/mth after the phone is paid off. I have 1Gb less data per month but have unlimited phone calls to landlines and mobiles in New Zealand and Australia to compensate. It's sad to say goodbye to my trusty Nokia 3710 flip-phone but it's been retained as my bedside alarm clock; but I do have a spare Huawei wifi hotspot if anyone's interested!

Spark certainly deserve their 1st placing for customer dissatisfaction but they've redeemed themselves somewhat with my 'chat sessions' yesterday and again today. Cellutronics have been very helpful and are the go-to people to consult if you are in a poor coverage area. 2Degrees offered the most cost-effective plans but my Yagi aerial is an AY12-12 (Spark only) and I need an AY12-13 for Vodafone/2Degrees - or an AY-15 will do all of them.

The only reservation I have is plugging the direct aerial connection to my phone when I get home and disconnecting it when I leave. Damage to this connector is not covered under warranty so I'll have to be extra-careful to line the pin up squarely. If I realised how complicated life would be without a landline and with patchy mobile coverage I might have thought twice about moving here!!