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.

Chickens are everywhere

My Great Southern Adventure is underway. An invitation to a wedding gave it impetus.

On the way, I visited a favourite shop: Annie’s Country Quilt Store.

Chickens dancing in the moonlight (most unlikely in reality) in the top right corner.

In my view, interesting shoes say a lot about how well matched people are.

Flowers and lacy sneakers

The table centrepieces had been carefully created by a friend.

And who is that sporting chicken tattoos?

At the art gallery I was attracted to this painting.

When I arrived at my next destination I was greeted by three chooks. Here is one of them.

There’s nothing like a chicken to make you feel right at home. And, today, two fresh eggs were delivered to my door.

Adorable Dora

It is sad to farewell lovely Dora today.

Named for Dora the Explorer, she was the curious, sociable one who would sit next to you or peer through the window from the back of an outdoor chair.

She is the only chook I have ever taken to the vet. In November I saw she had observable symptoms of ill-health which an internet search seemed to show could be cured with antibiotics. I found a local vet who was knowledgeable about poultry. Dora was given an injection and antibiotic pills – which she would eat ground up in lasagne!

Recently, however, her symptoms returned and then she became lethargic and uncoordinated, but was still eating and drinking. Her comb became pale and floppy. I had no idea how old this rescued chicken was, but she had long since stopped laying eggs. These brown shavers are bred to lay eggs constantly and die an early death, worn out by the effort.

I bathed her rear end on Monday, when I feared she might get fly-strike due to some scouring. Then I settled her in a “chicken hospital” for a couple of days (carrying her to her house each night) after powdering her feathers with diatomaceous earth powder to keep insects away.

Yesterday was cooler, and I left her in her house. By the end of the day she had passed away.

Now she rests next to Betty (the first Betty, not the current one). They each have their own rock.

Dora’s rock is on the left

I wondered if Popcorn would miss her mate, but she seems unconcerned, still bossing the others around – although Betty No 2 gives her a run for her money. Animals are far more accepting of life’s inevitabilities than we are.

Here are some happy memories:

Berry time of year

The blackcurrants have been ripening over the last few weeks. Now they are ready to pick. Blackcurrants may be an acquired taste for some as they are quite tart. Blueberries are much sweeter and I’ve harvested two large bowls from one bush.

We had our first lot in a shortcake, and I added blueberries for interest.

Before the top layer of pastry was put on.

Then I looked for a more interesting recipe and found one for Blackcurrant and vanilla cream tart. This has a pastry base and a filling of egg yolk, caster sugar, vanilla, and double cream. I used half yoghurt and half cream which probably added to the tartness of the fruit. Delicious.

Because the recipe used three separated eggs, I used the whites to make meringues which I’ve never made before. They turned out well and are nice to eat on the side of the tart with a spoonful of cream and a sprinkling of fresh berries.

There’s still one more blackcurrant bush to harvest. I picked a few of the currants this evening. They are large, juicy, tart and bursting with goodness.

Letterbox legend

This was my letterbox in the early 2000s. It was not new when this photo was taken, as the brass lip of the letter slot is tarnished. I bought it from the Mitre 10 store which used to be just around the corner until the earthquakes. I painted the letterbox to match the house.

There was a space at the back for milk bottles. We still had glass bottle deliveries of milk, although only three days a week when this photo was taken, until they finally stopped in 2009.

After my new fence was built in 2018, my nephew sank a sturdy post into the ground and secured the letterbox to it.

It has served me well in that spot, with a self-seeded bay tree sheltering it and shasta daisies flowering around it in summer.

This year, in October, a neighbour from the social housing complex nearby, took exception to it for some reason perhaps not even known to himself, kicking the letterbox off its post and smashing it beyond repair.

My nephew took it away and put an ordinary metal letterbox in its place.

On Christmas Day I received a new letterbox my nephew had modelled on the old one. Instead of the milk bottle compartment it has a larger space for letters, with a new handle and a firm latch at the back.

The original brass lip and brass numbers have been polished and it looks (and otherwise is) brand spanking new. My nephew assures me it is very strong. “Good luck with kicking this in,” he said.


The met service issued a strong wind warning yesterday. All gardeners dread the damaging effect of this on new growth. My tall globe artichoke seemed to be hanging on to its companion.

I’ve got you, Artie!

The sweet peas weren’t so lucky. When one container was blown over, the other stayed upright, but the plant went down, connected by the tendrils of the first plant.

Fortunately, I was able to right both plants once the wind had died down.

A very tall tomato plant was blown sideways and wilted at the top.

It was revived later by a generous helping of water.

Dora sheltered under the feverfew.

I carried on stacking wood. I had hoped to have it done before the wind arrived, but the delivery was late. It’s nice to achieve some order when the weather is in chaos.

It took three and a half hot, sweaty hours, with a barrow load taking five minutes to fill, wheel to the woodshed and stack.

A hiking companion used to cheer us up when the going got tough with you-think-you’ve-got-it -bad stories. The terrible effects of the tornado in the Philippines put our nor’wester into perspective. The ominous feeling that such events will be increasingly common everywhere remains.

Post Script:

We’re saved!

Good weather for ducks, not chooks

Awkwardly holding umbrella and camera, I took a photo of the rising water in the Avon from the Gloucester Street bridge. The ducks on the far bank – or side, rather, as the bank was underwater – seemed unperturbed. The Gormley sculpture in the river looked as if it might disappear, and a half-submerged bucket floated past as if redundant and useless against the flood.

The Met Service heavy rain warning reports heavy rain from 10 am today until 6 am tomorrow. With more than 12 hours still to go, I will need gumboots to get to my local shops where I had to pick a careful course through the already flooded streets after getting off the bus from town this morning. It’s the first time since I retired two years ago that I have had to take the bus to and from a WEA course due to rain, rather than walking. As I was leaving the WEA, I met a friend who had walked. She was soaked through, but cheerful. She prefers not to use an umbrella, and I imagine that the two hours she had ahead, sitting in class, would be uncomfortable.

Inside the house looks good, thinks Betty.

At home, the chooks are sheltering on the deck – along with numerous sodden sparrows. Rain doesn’t run off them as it does from a duck’s back. Settling in for a long snooze seems the best way to pass a rainy day.