Tag Archives: Plants

Mid-winter feasting

12 July ’13

Mid-winter –  a time to hunker down and keep out of the weather.

There is not much going on at this time of year, at least not much that we want to brave the weather for. And not much to blog about.  I’ve been spending weekend afternoons trying out new recipes.  We’ve enjoyed golden syrup dumplings, creamy leek and chicken pie, a delicious bacon and pumpkin pasta, and a melt-in-the-mouth  lamb curry.  Winter is the time for the comforts of home and comfort food.

Bird on a branch

Wax-eye in the kiwifruit canes

Last weekend we made what’s going to be one of our last visits to Trev’s place at Mangaweka.  While we were there we noticed a flock of wax-eyes enjoying a little mid-winter feast of their own in the kiwifruit canes.

Bird eating fruit

Wax-eye feasting

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

14 April ’13

Autumnal, it is one of my very favourite words.

I am starting to think the the Weekly Photo Challenge person and I are on the same wavelength.   I’d been thinking about this week’s blog, and decided that I’d write about the change of seasons, the clocks and the weather.

“This week, we want to see photos that represent change. Depending on where in the world you are, this could be a winter landscape blossoming to spring, or vice versa. It could be a picture of a place you’ve left behind and hope never to return to, a photo of a place you hope to reach, or a snapshot of where you currently stand in a journey. Perhaps you’ll capture your child on the cusp of a developmental milestone, or the sun just about to flip the switch between night and day.”  –  Michelle

 I guess the season is changing in the other direction in Michelle’s part of the world.

At 2am last Sunday the clocks changed back to regular time, adding an hour to the day and giving us all a sleep in.  As has happened before,  the weather seemed to take this as a cue to switch to winter mode – or at least autumn.    We stacked fire wood and I was inspired to  make  a crock-pot curry for our dinner, a sure sign that winter’s on its way.

Stacked Fire Wood

Stacked Fire Wood

It has been pleasant to have the fire going in the evenings.

After such a stunning summer the sudden drop in temperature has been a bit of a jolt.  I’ve been wearing jackets to work, and even broke out a merino jersey once or twice.


Winter wardrobe

My fav corduroy jacket,  fine merino jersey and the beautiful
orchid scarf that my brother brought me home  from his trip to Asia.

The recent rain has encouraged the toadstools out of their summer hiding places, they’re popping up all over.

Toadstools on the lawn

Toadstools on the lawn

The Lovely Man and I went foraging for mushrooms this morning, but couldn’t find any on public land that we felt would be right to take.  Those on people’s lawns and in farmer’s paddocks are off-limits.

My spring bulbs are beginning to push their leaves out of the ground and the leaves on the maple trees in the front yard are starting to change colour.

Red maple leaves

Autumn leaves

All in all, much is changing.  Not for the worse or better – just different.   What’s changed in your life recently?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

07 April ’13

It must be fate.  I’ve just discovered the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – this week’s topic is colour (yes, I know I spelt it the American way up there in the title – it has to be like that to match the criteria for the Challenge) and I just happen to have those vibrant chillies sitting in my Bulgarian bowl.

So here’s another shot of the chillies taken on my kitchen table in the last of the afternoon light.  I think they look fabulous.

Green and red chillies


F-stop                        f/5
Exposure time       1/200 sec 
ISO speed                ISO-200
Focal length          50mm

I don’t know if I’ll participate in each Challenge, but this one seemed too serendipitous to ignore.



Autumn’s Bounty

06 April ’13

This season is truly plentiful.

Though I’ve been lamenting the poor crop of tomatoes this year, we’ve been blessed with lots of other goodies. Our strawberries just keep on going, and the courgettes have done well after a slow start.

Strawberries and yellow courgette zucchini

Summer colour

As I’ve written previously, the wild blackberries seem to have had the best season ever.  We collected pots and pots of them, transformed their sweet goodness in to  jams and desserts.  I still have some in the freezer – blackberry gin anyone?

Weighing fruit

Blackberries by the Kilo

While up at Mangaweka last weekend the Lovely Man and I found a patch of blackberries that were still fruiting well.  Lacking anything to stash the berries in we simply stood in the sun and ate our fill.  Yum.  We also discovered that one of the old pear trees, a tiny little thing with a split trunk clinging to the hill side, is utterly laded with the biggest pears I’ve ever seen.  They’re not ripe yet.  I hope Continue reading


4 March ’13

Blackberry –  yes, we know it’s a weed, but those little glossy berries are just so delish.  The hot, long summer seems to have produced a bumper crop this year. So we discovered when we went for a drive on Saturday.

Cat was staying with a friend,  me and the boys (large and small) went out for a drive to the river. There we spotted a man blackberrying.  “Ah ha!”, thought we,  “That looks like a fine idea.”    After we’d checked out the little creek that runs down to the river – the reason we’d gone down there in the first place –  we headed on over to the berry canes.

Blackberry fruit

Billy and the blackberries

I can’t remember the last time I saw such a huge crop of blackberries.  Juicy and sweet, they stained our fingers as we sampled the fruit.  Warm and fragrant in the sun, the memories came flooding back of the blackberries we’d found in Ostia Antica last year.

Italy, Rome

Blackberries in Ostia Antica, Italy

We went home for lunch, then headed back with pots and containers to gather some of nature’s autumn bounty.

Picking blackberries

Boy in berries

It did not take long for three of us to gather enough for a cook up. And all the scratches were totally worth it.  We had enough to make a berry crumble to have Continue reading

Of Lions and Lookouts

11 Feb ’13

February 6th, Waitangi Day, our national day. Or it should be. It seems to me that this day has come to symbolise the trouble that divides us as a nation, rather than a celebration of our oneness. I think that the vast majority of us choose to ignore the silliness and jostling for position that goes on up North. It has become an embarrassment.

But anyway, we get a day off work and school. At least those of us who do not work in retail get a day off, so we made the most of it.

Te Manawa, our local museum, had the job of hosting the city’s celebrations for the day. There were stalls and entertainment, live music and of course the museum and art gallery exhibits.
I was fascinated by the Google Earth carpet in the Te Awa – The River exhibit when we visited during the museum’s open day after its major refurbishment. I still find the carpet rather cool. There’s now an interactive map which shows how the stop bank and flood-way systems protect our farmland, towns and city from flooding along the Manawatu River. We had a little bit of a play with that, and I explained to the kids how it all works. Later, as we wandered around the other exhibits we found a tiny replica movie theater that happened to be running a reel about the building of the flood gates. Good timing, and really interesting to see the history behind the model we’d played with.

There’s also a bronze (I think) statue of a horse on display. This horse used to stand in the foyer of the DIC department store building, now the city library. When I first saw the statue last time we visited it brought back memories of trips to town with my Nana, or maybe it was Grandma, when I was very small. That horse used to delight me as a little girl, and I swear it used to be seven feet tall!

I hadn’t taken my DSLR with me to the museum, but I grabbed some pictures  and shot a little video with the  Canon P&S.

We watched the International Pacific College drummers perform – there is some energy there! I could feel the drum beats in the air, the vibrations in my bones, just awesome.

Manawatu Chinese Association

Chinese Lion

The the Manawatu Chinese Association brought out their lion. What a character he is, apparently Chinese lions don’t like lettuce. Who knew?! Both these groups were excellent, and well appreciated by the crowd. Continue reading

Blogging Again

January 26 ’13

I’ve been reading some great blogs lately.  There are  many very talented people, all around the world and in my own back yard.  And through the magic that is the interwebs I am able to share in and enjoy those talents so easily. Words that would have, until not long ago, languished unread in journals, notebooks and diaries.  Beautiful words that have transported me to foreign lands and new experiences, made me cry. Witty drawings and observations of life that’ve made me laugh out loud. Insightful and thoughtful commentaries, and some of the most ignorant nonsense too, if I take the time to read the Comments sections.

And so I think I really must get back to it.   Perhaps someone over on that side of the world might be interested in what’s happening down here in NZ.     I miss the writing, I wish I had more formal training in the art.  I have discovered that I’m afraid to use semicolons – I really don’t know how.  I love photography, though I second guess myself constantly. I don’t know if I want to set myself any tasks or timetables now.  I wonder if setting Portraits as an aim last year is what put me off.  I’m finding that I just like ‘taking pictures’ for the fun of it.  No constraints.  I know I need to teach myself how to use off camera lighting, but maybe I’ll get to that in the winter.  In the dark days when I don’t have so much glorious natural light to work with.

Last weekend we packed up the kids and headed south for a family day out with Gran, Greg and Daniela.  Our initial plan for the day was to visit the sculpture gardens at Efil Doog in the Akatarawa Valley.  It’s a gorgeous drive north from Upper Hutt through farmland and native bush, the road narrow and a little scary.  Farmhouses and cottage industries are tucked in along the road, glimpses of the river splash along the valley floor.  Daniela used to work at the property neighbouring the garden, so she’d arranged a visit for us.  Soon Efil Doog will be closed to visitors, so we’re lucky and privileged to be able to experience this wonderful place.

Akatarawa Valley

Efil Doog Garden

The most unexpected creatures lurch out from behind trees, rise up out of the ground, float weirdly under the surface of ponds.  The fantastical sculptures are a delight.  Shirley’s collection of bonsai trees in their shade house are inspirational.   But I think the kids were most enchanted with the wildlife – dragonflies, an eel, swimming spiders and frogs!  Or maybe it was me who was enchanted.

Froggy-back dragonfly

Froggy-back dragonfly

This little frog was quite happy to pose for photos, and didn’t seem at all bothered when the dragonfly landed on his back. Continue reading

Week 48 – Garden light

26 Nov – 2 Dec ’11

Some more yard work this weekend.  At the end of the day I noticed the low evening sun illuminating the garden.


This sweet little sculpture was a gift to me from my late mother-in-law, Bernadette.   It’s new position in the garden means it catches the setting sunlight.

Cherubs - original

 F-stop                  f/5
Exposure time     1/320sec 
ISO speed             ISO-200
Focal length         55mm 

The picture needed a little tweaking to realise what I’d envisioned.  I had the camera set on auto white balance, so it’d removed the warm evening tones.  These I replaced in Lightroom.  Then  quick dash over to Photoshop to apply a vignette to enhance the intimacy of a stolen kiss.  Some times overdone, I think for this shot it works?

Cherubs in golden light

Lavender Blue 

I have tubs of English lavender growing along the deck.  The setting sun always lights the flowers beautifully at this time of year.

Lavender light

 F-stop                  f/5.6
Exposure time     1/400sec 
ISO speed             ISO-200
Focal length         125mm 

Larger aperture allow for the narrow depth of field that has only one flower in focus, the rest blurring out nicely.

Week 47 – There’s two sides to every story

19 – 25 Nov ’11 

Our old garden shed has been getting rather tired looking.  It’s a bit of an eye sore at the bottom of the section, so we decided it was time to give her a makeover.


A Makeover

This shed started life as an army barracks.  We acquired it from an acquaintance who no longer wanted it in his yard.  He’d used it to house his collection of treasures as a child, but now it was in the way.  The shed was lifted on to a truck and transported from Mangaweka to our old place, where the Lovely Man used it as a private museum.  When we moved to our present home, the shed came too. 

Shed on the move

It wasn’t needed as the museum any more, so became my garden/potting shed.  We removed the corrugated iron to reveal the original wooden weather board cladding. At that time it had only a door, no window.  An aluminium window that we’d acquired with our new property (it was left behind in the garage by the previous owners) was installed to let in some more light.

 So our much travelled barrack has been sitting at the bottom of the garden, doing good service as a potting shed but quietly peeling and rotting in places.  Not really much of a vista from the deck down the garden path.

 The recipe: – First, scrape and sand back, replace the rotten boards.  Make up some corner cappings and a nice new window frame.  Paint as desired. 



The Arty Shots

 For the sake of photography, I decided to try a couple of more artistic shots.

Some Wally jumped in to this one….


Where’s Wally?


 Two sides

Some time soon we will get the other side fixed up. 

Two sides


Week40 (Pt1) – Living Legends

1-7 Oct ’11

As part of the Rugby World Cup events, DOC and partners have arranged a series of tree plantings around the country entitled Living Legends.  Each region honours its own ex-All Black.  Here in the Manawatu our Living Legend is Sam Strahan.

The Great Living Legends Muck In 

Two hundred and fifty willing volunteers turned up to plant natives up in the Tararua Ranges, in an area just off the Manawatu Gorge Walk.  Six buses ferried us over farmland under the wind turbines of the Tararua windfarm.

Living Legends Manawatu Gorge Tararua ranges

Buses grind their way up the hill

Tararua and Ruahine ranges

Tararua Wind Farm and Wharite Peak

Living Legends Manawatu

Off the buses - unloading and ready for work

Our planting area had been cleared by a fire a few years ago and it hadn’t regenerated naturally.    It’s a very steep site.  The fittest and ablest headed right to the bottom.  Those of us not quite up to the challenge of the return journey stayed nearer the top.

Living Legends Manawatu, Tararua and Ruahine ranges

Arriving at the top of the planting site

Living Legends Manawatu, Tararua ranges

Jake gets stuck in - determination

Living Legends Manawatu, Tararua ranges

The Lovely Man planting flaxes

Living Legends, Manawatu, Tararua ranges

Cat planting a flax

 Everyone got stuck in, and with plenty of stops to rehydrate we got the job Continue reading