Clear the ducks!

Visiting mallard

We get lots of birds in the garden, particularly since we’ve had the bird feeder. Blackbirds, sparrows, chaffinches and wax-eyes look out for the hens’ food too, coming down for wheat and other treats on the lawn. The chooks don’t seem bothered and they all happily peck away together – although observing a kind of social distancing. Blackbirds and sparrows drink and have baths in the water trough. Some venture into the garage at times where the hens’ food dishes are put to discourage scavenging, and the chooks don’t turn a feather. However, when seagulls fly overhead the hens go still and tilt their heads upward, necks extended, on alert.

Perhaps the number of birds can be explained by the fact that spring is the season for lots of birds to be about. It’s hard to say, since I was away at work during the day last year – and we didn’t have chooks then. And we no longer have either a cat or a dog to make the birds nervous.

A couple of ducks landed on the roof with a huge thump a couple of weeks ago. One flew down onto the lawn and was quickly seen off by a very indignant Popcorn who fluffed herself up and raced at it at full speed.

This morning, a female mallard was on the lawn. She had attractive white scallop shapes on her brown feathers. Dora and Popcorn seemed unperturbed. However, when she walked along the deck, Dora hid behind me, pecking at the sheepskin on my slippers as if urging me to do something about this outrage. (This is all anthropomorphic interpretation, of course.)

The duck came closer.

Dora gave up trying to get me to do something, and advanced towards her, at which the duck turned and walked back along the deck, then down onto the lawn.

I tried a bit of clapping and shooing, half-heartedly, with no effect. It’s not easy to be taken seriously when you’re wearing pyjamas and fluffy slippers. (Or to take early morning photos without the phone cover getting in the way).

Popcorn seemed to be ignoring her.

Duck and Popcorn observing social distancing.

I began to think that they had developed a tolerance for all the birds who visit, including ducks. However, later I saw from inside the house that the duck had taken things a bit far by going towards a favourite part of the garden and both hens rushed it at once. The duck flew clumsily up, turned and landed on the garage roof where she walked up and down briefly before disappearing over the roof tops.

Not so good

The nor’wester wasn’t quite the cyclone bearing down on Miami, but it toppled the greenhouse. And it was enough to put the wind up Dora who rushed up behind me and, quite unprovoked, pecked me on the leg.

Those spooky looking hands at the top of the photo are my gardening gloves hanging on the line. They look for all the world like manifestations of the wind giving the glasshouse a casual push.

Fortunately, the tomato plants are fine. The seedlings are a bit battered but okay. The basil was fine too, until it got the second fright of its young life when Dora rushed in like a robber’s dog.

It must have been quite a sight: me struggling against the wind to put the inflating greenhouse up, reinserting the piping where it had popped out of its sockets, rescuing upturned plants, and fending off the chooks at the same time.

Once again it’s upright – now inelegantly anchored with heavy paving stones (on newspaper so they don’t damage the plastic or the piping) and logs. Then, because the wind was catching the top of the structure I tied it to the fence. The knot is in the doorway so I can undo it easily. There was potting mix on the walls which I hosed off. Finally, I re-sowed the salad-mix lettuces.

Knot so good. The crazy stick-figure knot reminds me to improve my rope-tying technique. I have a book: Knots – An Illustrated Practical Guide to the Essential Knot Types and their Uses.

And the wind has died away, as if there is no more fun to be had.

So far so good

The next day, having ascertained that the greenhouse could be viable, I bought plants which I normally wouldn’t purchase for at least another month. Here is the greenhouse, complete with cover, and with two tomato plants in the ground. I have to wait a little longer for the “lunch-box” pepper plants I prefer to be available.

In pots on either side I’ve planted a “tumbling tom” tomato with which I have had success before, and basil. There is also a pot in which I sowed salad-mix seeds. Two containers of seedlings – sweet peas and lobelia – are safe on another shelf ready for planting outside. The terracotta-coloured pot has a chain attached and I’m considering planting something edible in this pot and hanging it from the ridge pole to make use of the upper space.

We had a frost the morning after I planted, so I was pleased to see that the plants seemed unaffected by the cold outside.

To take this photo, I had to wait for the condensation to clear. It was warm inside the greenhouse. When the sun is on it, I unzip the flap and put the piece of trellis (leaning on the left) lengthwise across the doorway to keep the hens out. If it is warm enough and the moisture on the plastic has evaporated, I roll up the door and secure it with the ties.

“Northwesterlies, gusty at times” are forecast. The greenhouse, although nestled into the fence, is not secured – so fingers crossed it stands its ground.

So far, so good…

Flat-pack: from fear to fun

Spring is here and I’m keen to get more plants in. Tomatoes and peppers would be good – but it’s still too early. Unless you have a green house.

I have a small garden, but it occurred to me that I could fit a tiny green house in a sunny spot by the back fence.

The chosen sunny spot

Expecting it to be an expensive purchase, I was thrilled to find an $80 flat-pack green house on the Mitre 10 website. As it was only available in the Ferrymead branch, I drove to the other side of town and then browsed in the garden section while my flat-pack item was unloaded from the Mainfreight truck. Then I headed home along the estuary and the river; the scenic route.

Perhaps I was subconsciously daunted by the assembly part of the venture. First I had lunch to get my strength up. Then I cleaned the bathroom. Then I cleaned my car. The chimney sweep came and cleaned the chimney. We chatted.

Finally, I unpacked the box and set out the contents.

There was a diagram by way of instructions, with numbers and letters. As I began to put it together I started to enjoy myself.

I worked methodically, pleased that there was no-one watching or commenting on progress and making ‘helpful’ suggestions. For a moment, I thought I had the dreaded ‘piece left over’, but it turned out to be the ridge pole, with which the structure was complete.

Time for a roof shout.

Next I had to clear the space. This involved trimming back the horrible ivy which showered me with grit and pollen. I moved the blueberry which is growing in an old copper with a metal stand. Orville’s Dream (garden sculpture) was moved as well. A couple of raspberry plants and an aquilegia were shifted.

Inspector Popcorn.

Then I walked the green house into position. I found some old pieces of treated timber to hold it off the ground.

Dora and Popcorn give their approval.

Now it is ready for the cover to be fitted and the shelves to be put in place. And the planting. But that’s for tomorrow.

A beach for all seasons

Once a week, all year round, my friend and I drive 20 minutes east to the beach. In winter, while others head west to go skiing, we enjoy the changing moods of the sea and sky. This week we paddled for the first time since autumn.

A little chilly, but refreshing.
August 2020

The sky was blue and clear so we had a clear view of the Port Hills and the Kaikoura mountains. Yet, just a week earlier, you could hardly see a thing!

The footprints told us others were out walking too.
August 2020

We’ve encountered all sorts of weather over years of winters, including stinging wind-blown sand and biting southerly winds. In August 2016, there was snow on the Port Hills, but a beautifully clear day.

The beach is different every visit. It depends on the tide, weather, and what has happened over the week, such as high tides or storms which wash up drifts of seaweed and shells, push the sand into banks against the sand dunes or wash the beach smooth and clean of debris.

One morning, we found a fishing boat had washed up overnight.

22 December 2019

Sometimes artists exhibit their work at the beach while other people find driftwood irresistible for creative expression.

This week I saw these two works by Russell Clark in the Christchurch Art Gallery. They celebrate the sea and its exhilarating effect on us, using light, perspective, shape and texture.

The painting on the left is View from the Pier. The sculpture is called Beach Figure. The texture of the garment reminds me of driftwood and sand shaped by the wind.

Nature does some interesting sculpting too.

We, and many others, find the atmosphere of sea, sky and fresh air uplifting. There are people out walking, running, cycling, surfing, and exercising their dogs and horses all year round.

Both sea and sky have changing moods.

May 2020

Often, we walk up the dunes to find a view from the top which takes our breath away.

Aug 2020
April 2015
April 2014