Morning meditations

Morning is my favourite time for browsing about the garden.

I get out of bed when the chooks are asking for breakfast at sunrise (just after 7 am at the moment). With a jersey zipped up over my pyjamas, and gumboots on my feet, I put out their mash and sprinkle some wheat before cleaning out their houses. Then I get the newspaper from the gate, and wander about the garden. It’s a lovely gentle way to start the day.

It’s autumn, but there’s plenty of new life despite that. The roses are clearly not done yet.

The New Zealand myrtle,rōhutu, is covered in berries.

Lophomyrtus obcordata

The blueberry is simultaneously fruiting – for a second time – and losing its leaves.

The autumn raspberries just keep on going.

I look at work I have done to tidy up the tired late-summer growth – bulbs and winter colour in pots – and note new growth on the tomatoes, a fox glove stubbornly emerging from the side of a barrel, and buds on the camellia (it is flowering on the other side).

The tomato plants in a hanging basket (another of the many strategies to protect plants from the chooks) are still producing flowers and fruit.

Chrysanthemums and broad beans among the rainbow chard are flowering. The bean plants popped up all by themselves when I followed advice to ‘chop and drop’ the old, finished plants. Another of many examples of plants in the garden with the will to flourish.

I hope for winter harvest of spinach, kale, pak choi, and salad greens from the plants in the green house and the vertical garden.

My morning meditations on the energy and beauty of living things helps get the day off to a good start. I have become tolerant of the ‘chaos’ of nature too, because we now know it’s meant to be. Even chooks’ dust baths in the ‘lawn’, giving more of a farmyard look than a manicured one, make me happy.

To top off this morning’s garden browsing, a bellbird, korimako, burst into song above me as I reached into the nesting box to retrieve a warm brown egg.

Thank you, bellbird. Thank you, Betty.

Betty

POST SCRIPT: Since we’re on the subject of new growth despite the time of year, here’s another example. This is my brother’s new little puppy visiting us last week.

Give those parents a medal!

What a week! But I had a hollow feeling as I drove away rather than the relief I might have expected to feel. I realised I’d taken on a state of alert and anxiety while in loco parentis. I’d had a taste of what parents must feel constantly, and enjoyed it.

With my sister and brother-in-law and their younger son due home any moment, I’d just taken Dom, the border collie, back to their house and done the last jobs: topped up the cats’ bowls, fed the fish, changed the bird’s water. And put away my nephew’s washing. Becoming familiar with where he keeps his undies and socks was not something I had anticipated.

His parents and brother were away on holiday and he was at home with a quiet week and lucrative work to look forward to. When he was unexpectedly admitted to hospital, I was suddenly doing the visiting and taking the dog home to my place.

An old infection had flared up again. Five nights in hospital and an operation followed. A lot of time for an active 18-year-old to be lying about. I took in his lap top and a couple of magazines and enjoyed my visits. The nursing staff were great, with back-and-forth banter, even as he endured the many changes of intravenous fluids.

Meantime, Dom kept guard at my gate and the chickens kept him in line if he ventured into their part of the garden – particularly after he ate their mash and one of their corn cobs. It’s funny to see a great border collie running away with chooks in indignant pursuit. Keeping him at the front of the house when he wasn’t inside seemed best, but meant I was always watching in case he squeezed through the fence or someone took a fancy to him. He’s a lovely, affectionate, well-trained dog, and a bit of a doofus.

Today, it’s just the aged mother and me and the chooks. I’ve collected up handfuls of dog fur from the carpet, washed the floors – and even cleaned the windows to use up the excess energy left from the adrenaline of being on alert. I can catch up on my reading. I can do whatever I feel like. But the hollow feeling was a surprise. It only lasted till the end of the street, but still.

Well done, parents!

Glowing and growing

The illuminating properties of light, literal and metaphorical, have always lifted people’s spirits. I can’t help but be cheered by tomatoes glowing in the sun on a windowsill where they have been put to ripen.

Soup made from freshly-picked tomatoes is also cheering – and warming, as autumn weather bites around the edges.

The autumn-fruiting raspberries are glowing so that, even in half-light, it is easy to distinguish which are the best to pick. I like that one branch has numerous fruit in various stages of development. It looks as if they will go on ripening for a while yet.

The cranberries are not only ripe but sweet-smelling as you brush past them on the path.

New plants are growing and seeds of last-chance salad greens have sprouted.

The news informs us, but it does not lift our spirits as a garden can.

My heart breaks for the people who have to flee their homes, their gardens, their animals, their life-time of effort, for an unimaginable future.

Flourishing

The roses, in their second flowering, press against the window.

You never know what to expect to find in the garden when you return from a week away. Will it have withered with neglect? Not so this time. The only misfortune was a fallen tomato plant which had crashed due to the weighty trusses of fruit.

It seems okay, and I’ll leave it where it is to prevent any damage. One truss of tomatoes broke off, however. Not surprising as it weighed one and a half kilos.

The tomatoes in the hanging basket were doing well.

Just out of chicken reach.

Some of the salad greens were bolting in the vertical planter.

Perhaps that’s why it’s called ‘rocket’; it always bolts first.

The beans, peas and chard were flourishing under their domes. Scarlet runner beans were heading skywards and flowering profusely. Meantime, the sweet peas (the ‘scramble’ to the right) were past their best and the artichokes ‘hats’ had faded from purple to brown.

The red salvia seemed to have doubled in size.

The Japanese anemones were crowding around the sapientia rose – and me, as I walked up the path.

All up, a great welcome home.

Doubtful Sound

This seven-hour trip involved a boat trip out of the Waiau River and across Lake Manapouri to a coach which took us over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove. Here we embarked on a second boat which took us out through the winding fiord to the Tasman Sea.

It had rained, which meant there were rushing streams…

And lots of waterfalls.

Once more my school geography lessons on glaciation enabled me to identify features such as terminal and lateral moraine left by the retreating glacier.

I was reminded of fiords I’d seen in Norway, only this is wilder with its temperate rainforest thick along the slopes of the fiord. No switchback roads climb the mountainsides and the only sign of a hotel is a bit of a joke by local fishermen.

Blanket Bay ‘Hotel

No bottle-nosed dolphins appeared (others had seen them the day before at Milford Sound) but there was a lone seal (as far as we could tell) and, later, a colony of fur seals at the entrance to the sea.

It was easy to see why Captain Cook was reluctant to enter the fiord with its rocky shoals partly obscured by the choppy water. He decided against sailing in to what he dubbed ‘Doubtful Harbour’. There were floating logs yesterday as well, due to the rain. The skipper of our boat had a digital radar to warn him of obstacles.

At one point, back in the calmer water of the fiord, the skipper turned off the engines and we floated silently, enjoying the lapping of water, bird song and the beech forest.

There were flowering trees. I’m not sure what this is with its masses of white flowers – ribbon wood, perhaps?

The sky cleared to reveal this view as we reached the top of the Wilmot Pass on our return.

The boutique and the quirky

Small towns have to work hard to create appealing accommodation for the tourist looking for something a little different from the usual bland motel. La Riviera in Riverton was the first one I chose for my nostalgic trip south. There was nothing like this when I first holidayed at Riverton Rocks camping ground.

Our cabin at Riverton Rocks.

More of La Riviera.

The motel I stayed in at Te Anau was bland, but I chose it for its view.

Now, in Clyde in Central Otago, my accommodation, is more provincial museum or junk shop than boutique. Not entirely comfortable. Just as well there are beautiful stone walls and views of roses scrambling over a picket fence.

Provincial towns seem to attract the quirky and interesting as reflected in their businesses, such as second-hand shops.

In the Riverton shop I could see that many people had launched themselves enthusiastically into chicken motifs. It seemed they had all got over their obsession simultaneously.

Opposite the Invercargill City Council is this historic WEA building.

Invercargill clearly had ambitions in its past. (It still does, judging by the massive building project currently underway on Dee Street.) I don’t think I’ve seen another church like this one anywhere else in New Zealand. My brother and father used to sing in the choir here when we lived in Invercargill.

Bluff has its famous sign post. Clyde has one too…

An art gallery in Tuatapere is in a former BNZ building and has made a feature of the safe and telephone system.

Could a hoarder live in this Clyde house? Another front lawn here had a collection of cannon and gold sluicing gear.

This quirky, funny creativity puts the ostentatious display of the ‘money-papered landscape’ of Queenstown and, increasingly, Wanaka in the shade.

In Ranfurly, I visited the delightful Curiosity Shop which I had visited some years before. Now it’s on the owner’s property so she doesn’t have rent added to her running costs. I was intrigued by these glass panels made from old crystal dishes and vases and set into window frames.

In the Historic Precinct of Oamaru is a delightful design store. Many of the items for sale are designed and made by the owner. Her young daughter has contributed a collection of cards too.

Here’s the last word from La Riviera:

Te Anau then and now

We had many summer holidays at Lake Te Anau. These photos of my brother and me with our parents were taken on the Te Anau launch in the 1950s. With its wood and brass, the launch is far from the craft which take people on to the lake now.

Faith in Fiordland on the right was built in the 1930s and provides today’s passengers with a bit of class and nostalgia. Otherwise, it’s up-to-the-minute water transport.

We loved to watched the flying boat, the amphibian, landing and taking off from the lake.

There are still gum trees along the waterfront exuding the eucalyptus aroma I remember so well.

Here is the boat harbour where we used to fish for minnows with a bent pin and worm bait. There were often shredded eels which had become entangled in boat’s’ propellers.

My uncle Bill and my father, various cousins and uncles would go fly fishing. I wonder if this photo shows my brother’s first catch.

At the Red Cliff Cafe where I had dinner last night, there was an old Singer sewing machine like the one my aunt had at the crib in Te Anau.

An indispensable household item is now a design feature.

We would often eat fish at Te Anau. My Uncle Bill was a great fisherman and would bake the fish wrapped in foil, with butter and lemon. At The Red Cliff Cafe, I had back strap of wild hare with mushrooms, potato, beetroot relish and pea puree. A local pinot noir from Wild Earth Wines went with it well.

As a child I heard adults talking of Dr Orbell who discovered takahe in Fiordland in the 1940s, a bird previously thought to be extinct. Now you can visit them at the bird sanctuary in Te Anau. Yesterday I was delighted to see a family of five including chicks almost as big as their parents. They were ‘talking’ to each other as they foraged.

Te Anau is in Fiordland National Park so it remains in essence as it was, unlike what Press columnist, Joe Bennett, describes as the “landscape papered with money” in Queenstown which I drove quickly past today.

Well-being and Forests

Tree Sense ed. Suzette Goldsmith (published by Massey University Press 2021) is the perfect book to read here in Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage area in recognition of its original and extensive temperate rainforest.

“Kimmerer points out that the words ‘humus’ and ‘human’ arise from the same root…Why should it not follow that humans might have an intrinsic sense of belonging to the forest world, with its deep, decomposing layers of organic matter, the origin and destination of so much terrestrial life?” (Kennedy Warne in Tree Sense, with reference to Native American botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer.)

At Lake Monowai

There’s nothing like being in native forest. At Lake Monowai the air was so humid that I was aware at first of every breath I took. The scent of beech forest is like nothing else: rich and sweet with honey dew. There was the sound of bellbirds, crickets, and the creaking of branches in the canopy.

The forest floor is dense with moss. Fallen trees feed the new ones coming through. It’s difficult to photograph the extent of it. It reminded me of the superstition that a photograph steals your soul. A photo of the forest is superficial; its soul remains intact.

Before my walk at Lake Monowai, I had just read about Kimmerer’s research which “points to the subterranean mycorrhizae – the fungal filaments that inhabit and interconnect tree roots…’All flourishing is mutual.’ “ (ibid.) This made me take note of the above-ground evidence of fungal life. It was everywhere.

Speaking of the subterranean, the glow worm caves at the foot of the Murchison mountains at Lake Te Anau give a glimpse into what goes on under the forest.

It’s raining this morning. The rivers and waterfalls will be flowing strongly and the rainforest sustained.

Grand Gardens

I used to bike through Queen’s Park on my way to music lessons every week and I don’t remember being as awed by them as I was on revisiting them this week.

Wide avenues and mature specimen trees.

There was the rose garden I remember, the Peter Pan statue, an arched bridge, a Chinese garden, a Japanese garden, and the children’s playground. At every turn, there was something to explore.

There were animal statues (with children climbing over them – and cooling off in the fountain) and real animals.

You could “forest bathe” under the trees, discover rainbow chard growing in a border, and marvel at the giant macrocarpa.

I turned a corner and there was a waterwheel and, around another, the arched bridge I’d previously seen in the distance.

At the cafe, popular with parents and children, there were cheese rolls aka ‘Southland Sushi”, and custard squares.

It was a beautiful day. On my way out of the park, I came upon three jumping violinists enthusiastically enjoying their Celtic origins.

It was a perfect day to visit my home town, Invercargill.

Riverton Rocks!

I first came to Riverton on holiday when I was about four years old. We stayed at the camping ground at Riverton Rocks. I lost my sandals when the tide swept them away and had to walk back to the camp across a paddock of thistles.

In the last three days I have found pebbly and sandy beaches and more care for wildlife.

There are still thistles in the paddocks and I was delighted to find caterpillars on ragwort (which fascinated me as a child) and spider nurseries in gorse bushes.

The town has an excellent museum. Through a glass door you can observe conservators preserving historical artefacts. I didn’t know that there were so many pre-European Māori settlements on the offshore islands here. They had survival down to a fine art. Relations with the sealers, whalers and saw-millers were strained at times, but not always. Attempts to establish separate Māori and Pakeha schools failed because the children wanted to stay with their friends. The many intermarriages also made it hard to decide who should go to which school.

Street art adds interest to many otherwise unremarkable buildings.

There are many interesting old buildings and efforts to preserve some of them. There are also a lot of new beachfront homes for the people who live and holiday here. A man who writes a column for New Zealand Gardener magazine has established a food forest here. He and his wife have rescued and revived many heritage apple varieties. A local environment centre shares ideas and produce. It is a pleasant and vibrant community with a fascinating history.