Thursday, 28 May 2015

Frost Shelter, Signs and Pathways

Bamboo strung together with strips of bicycle tyre inner tube 
Avo shelter, back and front (above).
It's that inbetween time, the Autumn/Winter changeover.  We had some beautiful red persimmon leaves - after the last heavy winds, no more to be seen!  And this morning we woke to a very cold and frosty whiteout in the garden.  My poor lettuces are no more!  But I felt a lightness in my step, as I gloated over the fact that we had spent a good deal of yesterday preparing our avo area, with a great self-constructed Nomad Tent for our 3yr old avocado tree!  I have lost 2 avo trees to frost by not being vigilant enough before, so it was imperative that we build the structure - now I am so glad we did!  It looks like a Bedouin tent flapping gently in the breeze.  Should the wind velocity increase, I am certain it will become airborne but the lightness of it's construction materials should cause no major damage to anyone else!  We get heavy frosts here in Katikati, several in Winter and in Spring, so sub-tropicals don't stand a chance without protection.

Garden bed rotation signs
My old veg bed signs were looking a little drab, so to brighten up for the coming grey winter, I painted some signs with some old test-pot acrylic paint - took all of 5 minutes, for each one.  The wood is off-cut cedar bits which Mike collects from a factory before they throw them away, and we also use them for kindling.  I pick out bits I want to use to make things with and they are perfect for garden use.  I work a 4 bed crop rotation in the garden - green leafy crops (silver beet, salad crops, kale etc.), root crops (carrots, garlic, onions etc.), leguminous crops (peas, beans, lupins) and fruit crops (tomatoes, eggplant etc.).  I had some old wooden decorative shapes lying around from a previous project, so they were glued in place to zhoosh them up a little.

Easy-peasy signs - 1,2,3 and they're done! 

My leaf bed was looking quite good, s'cepting for the frost this morning which all but obliterated the Tom Thumb lettuces!!  Bugger!

Leguminous crop - my pea seedlings awaiting transplanting.....
Old mulch scraped away from path.
And finally, last week I scraped up all of the old pathway mulch in this area, re-laid it under the fruit trees (great rich food source for trees), laid down cardboard and then scattered fresh mulch over to suppress weeds for the next 9 months or so.  12, if I'm lucky!  Most all the pathways need this treatment but I do a few at a time, sourcing the tree mulch from a local tree feller/fella!  I usually wait 5 weeks before using it, allowing it to stand and break down a little so that it does not rob too much nitrogen from the soil.

Cardboard to line the path will eventually break down - it is made from trees, and goes back to feed the trees!

Fresh new tree mulch laid on top of the cardboard makes a great weed suppressant.
So it's onwards and upwards as I continue to prepare the garden for The Big Sleep (a.k.a Winter).

Monday, 25 May 2015

Local Eco-touring: Nature Walk

Having recently begun a job-share position at work, I now work one week on and have one week off.  What that means is that I have a whole week every 2 weeks, in which to work in my backyard supermarket (growing our food), getting chunks of work done in what would have translated to a month of Saturdays!!  Yay!  It also means I am not under so much pressure to perform every weekend, and together, with Mike, can explore our Wonderland of tracks, nature and fun things to do in our area!!  Double yay!
Beauty Abounds
Last weekend we went for a walk on a briskly cool, sunny day up to our local Hot Springs Road mountain track.  The designated walks cater to the less adventurous (the likes of us) with a 20 minute walk and the comfortably adventurous, with a walk of 2 1/2 hrs.  We chose the lesser version, strolled leisurely along, so the 20 minute walk was more an hour and a half's worth, as we stopped often to admire, photograph and share things along the way.  There is a commercial Hot pools and camp ground facility located on the road, halfway up to the tracks.  The views are spectacular, over the Bay of Plenty (Tauranga harbour) and the air is fresh and pure!  No inhaling insidious fumes down in the Spray of Plenty (agrochemicals).

Magnificent Kauri trees

Well maintained tracks make for easy walking.
The kauri trees that grow along the track are magnificent and majestic, but signs warn that they are under threat from fungal disease and cautions trampers to clean their footwear before starting along the track at the cleaning station located at the entrance.  Kauri trees grow straight up, up, up toward the blue skies and lose their side branches as they grow bigger.  Truly breath-taking!

Kauri tree
Towering Nikau and Ponga ferns reaching for the clear blue skies

Kawakawa bush
It seems wherever we go, we tend to find kawakawa in the shade of other trees.  Kawakawa makes an awesome tea.  In fact, a friend recently shared some information on this panacea of native medicine or Rongoa Maori.  Some time back I had bought a pack of dried kawakawa leaves for my husband to make himself tea out of.  It took a while to get him into kawakawa tea but recently he has been enjoying it so we tend to forage and pick 5-6 leaves when we spot a bush handy to a walking track.  I also bought a kawakawa seedling to plant in my garden not too long ago (still too small to harvest yet) and so I was thrilled when Mike read the information on the tea and became animated about it.  Apparently, it cures just about everything under the sun!!  And then some!

Dappled sun on a leaf-strewn path
Ahh, the outbreath of wonderment and awe!  To shirk off the confusion and drudgery of everyday life and the things/possessions we surround ourselves with in our homes.  To tramp in the Great Outdoors.  How fine to be in Nature.  Papatuanuku.  Mother Earth.  And to experience all her splendors.  I do think we breathed much deeper in that forest!  And I think we came away with a sense of being empowered by all that we saw, felt and experienced.  Medicine for the soul.  A Healing.  On an infinitesimal scale.  I think I need less time in front of a screen and more time in nature, to slow my life down even more.

Looking out over the Beautiful Bay of Plenty
At times like this, I stop and reflect on how beautiful this place is.  And how lucky we are to be living here.  So close to nature.  So close to infinite beauty.  I remember driving through the town of Katikati 15 or so years ago, and my husband asking if I could ever live in a place like this.  And my shudder of revulsion - "In a one-horse town like this???? Never!"

The last laugh is on me!  We did end up in that one horse town.  And I have fallen in love.  Sometimes I look up at the mountains surrounding our town and I marvel at their splendor.  Parts of the mountain, and certainly, different vantage points remind me of the mountains of Africa.  Of Fraanschoek in the Cape.  But the green-ness of it all is not replicated in Africa.  Here, the greens and blues can hurt your eyes.  Their intensity is sometimes blindingly vivid and piercing.
A glimpse of farmland.  Verdant green.

Light and shadow....
Making shadows again.

A view into the Underwater World.

An upside down world.... which way is up?  Which way down?
My foray into the bush brings to mind a poem which hung behind our toilet door when I was a child: 

Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann
(Desiderata is a Latin word translating roughly to things desired, wanted or needed; a requisite)
"Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."


Thursday, 14 May 2015

We got bees!!

Hard to believe our good fortune sometimes!!  Mike always says: "Careful of what you want, you might just get it!!"  The Law of Attraction!  We have always wanted to have bee hives in our small backyard.  We even signed up for a course to learn how to care for them.  Mike read a book on bees, and how us humans would survive something like 5 years before we died out, if we lost all of our bees!  That's how important they are to our survival!  Think about it - our fruit, our veggies - all pollinated by mostly bees!  
Mesh protects the entrance from wasp invasion.
Sadly, after our Bee Keeping course, we decided we just did not have the TIME it took to care for the little critters, while working, growing our food and maintaining home and garden.  I approached 2 local bee-keepers, offering them the chance of placing bee hives in our bee-wonderland-backyard. Not interested at all. The guy who ran the bee-keeping course said he could place some hives in our garden, but we waited several months and nothing happened.  We called.  He said he would come.  We waited.  Still nothing happened and a year went by.  So we shelved the idea.  Until I recently read in the newspaper that a beekeeper was asking for space to place his hives.  I eagerly rang up and offered our backyard.  The beekeeper's wife, Alison, promised they would come to have a look.  I waited eagerly, but tried not to get my hopes up this time.  They came.  2 weeks later, Barry brought 2 hives.  We were so excited, we could barely contain ourselves.  We watched with bated breathe as he opened the hives and the first little buzzy guys emerged.  Barry wore no protective gear and assured us they would be happy for us to walk passed.

These little girls come and go at such speed, it is tiring just to watch them!
Barry and Alison pop by every now and then just to feed the hives and check on them.  I LOVE having bees, with their own keeper.  No hassle, no fuss, just busy little bees pollinating everything within a 5km radius!  And we get to be part of the solution to the plight of the bees - we use no poisons in our garden, so these busy-bodies are safe to gather pollen and do what bees do - keep their colony healthy and safe.

The sign I painted to welcome the bees to our backyard.  Sweet as Honey!

So the bees are happy.  We are ecstatic, and the garden is humming!  The bees are placed on the southern side of the property, next to the compost bin.  
Barry and Mike tend the bees.  Barry wears full protective suit.  Mike not!
Not only is our garden buzzing with bees, but we have several Swan Plants (milkweed), self-seeded.  That means an abundance of Monarch butterflies, caterpillars (they only eat the milkweed, so are not a threat to human food production) and jewel-like chrysalises.  I recently found a butterfly on our driveway and rescued it.  It was a new hatch-ling, I was able to examine it and photograph it.
A rescued chrysalis cellotaped to our light chord.
We will enjoy watching it emerge.

Beautiful Butterfly.  Purerehua in Maori.

Gentle.  Graceful.

I put this pretty lady in our olive tree where she hung around for 2 days!
I have this theory I'm putting to the test; I have been talking or singing to the bees every time I go to the compost bin.  I hope they get to recognize the sound of my voice and know I am not a threat to them.  We shall see......  But anyway, if I get stung, I believe it provides a good boost to the immune system!  
And Stop the Press:
Since the beginning of our Term 2, I have begun a job-share position with a lovely lady at kindergarten, who embodies all that I hold dear - sustainable education.  What this means, is that I get to work one week on at the kindergarten and one week off.  This is the second of my off-weeks, and I have been just as busy as those bees - pruning, mulching and weeding!  I am taking back the garden - it had been taken over by an Overgrown Weed Giant, who didn't allow much sunshine in at all.  I can begin to see the sunshine now.........

Bees mean more persimmon next year!! Yay!  Sun-fruit!  Note the radiating lines like the sun a child draws.