Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Last Friday our eldest Fiji granddaughter, aged 10 years 4 months and 21 days, decided to vacate an aircraft that was in good condition and was running well! Quite a leap for a young lady, as 16,500 feet, or 5,025 metres is a long way up in anyone's language. In fact I'd go as far as to say it would be quite a leap for a refined and mature gentleman such as I. Kudos to Hayli for taking the plunge.



 "16,500 feet to the ground."

 Flying like a bird, er, rock, halfway to the top of the troposphere

 Double thumbs up!

 Boy, those clouds look solid!

 Nope, not solid!

 "My teacher will kill me."

I'm not pulling faces, it's the 200 kph wind!

 Boy, that's a relief. The parachute opened!

 Clear the deck! Here we come!


A brave girl has now decided on a career change when she grows up - to be a professional sky diver is now first choice.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A day at the beach at Marahau (41°00.4S, 173°00.6E) was enjoyed by all yesterday. The day, being overcast, was very enjoyable as it was not too hot. Many holiday-makers were present, and the beach at times hosted more tractors connected to boat-launching trailers than cars in the car parks.
All photos by Susan Westrupp

 Fiji visitor reckons this is just the berries. 
 Look! The Martians are coming!
 The large beach in front of Marahau hosts cockle beds, which fortunately for them, are covered for most of the day with tides up to 4 metres high.
 Where did those Martians go?
 No, this isn't them.
 Rock Hound
Cuzzie Bro's

After a quite long walk along the National Park tracks, we repaired to The Fat Tui, a seasonally open mobile restaurant that produces hamburgers to die for. Mine was venison with plum sauce and too many other ingredients to remember. Delicious! The kids had fish 'n chips, as I don't think that even one of them, no matter how hungry, could have disposed of one of the hamburgers. Son-in-law Ricky, however, disposed of the the largest one with hardly a burp!   

Saturday, 21 December 2013

An interesting addition to the garden is this yacón, a South American plant that appears to have only appeared on the Western consciousness in the last decade or so. We had one last year but I stuffed it up when I dug it up. Too impatient. We ate one and it certainly tasted a bit 'different' - water chestnut, pear, crunchy, juicy. I bought the plant in the township of Mapua, which lies at the entrance to an inlet at the southern end of Tasman Bay. The shop assistant told me that a customer bought two plants last year, and professed that due to the application of large quantities of cow manure, he had harvested 50 kgs of tubers from them.

I shall be more careful with this plant, and will do a bit more research before plucking it from the soil.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Going by reports from others in the Motueka area, apricots are not known to be very prolific hereabouts, so we are watching this tree with lip-licking anticipation. We expect to start grazing on them in the next few days. Hmmm, I wonder what apricot wine tastes like.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Give it heaps, Hayli!

Hayli enjoying a go on the same swing her father and and her aunties enjoyed for many years. Some of her father's (slightly younger) cousins also grew up trying to lift the legs off the ground. Although we thought a hundred bucks was a bit much in 1975, we figure, allowing for inflation, that each swing cost is down to about 1 millionth of a cent!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Hedgehog Trap                                                    Photo by Hayli

Now that Hayli's Dad has joined us from Fiji, Hayli has put into action her long-held plan to catch a hedgehog with the intention of having a pet, albeit a prickly one. Her Dad had been shown by his mother's father a good thirty years ago how to make a trap, and remarkably, he remembered the basics and here, after some false starts is the finished item, which has now been set in the leaf litter under the Lombardy poplar in the corner of the section.

Some experimentation is necessary to find the right bait. We await developments.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Sunday, 1 December 2013

High-pitched tweeting advertised the presence of some silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) in our loquat tree (Eriobotrya japonica). We hadn't noticed that some fruit had ripened, and were surprised that granddaughter Hayli hadn't either, as she loves the taste of them. 
 "Do you mind! I'm having my lunch."

At 12 centimeters in length and weighing only 12 grams, he is not the largest of birds, but must be a prodigious flyer as he self-colonised New Zealand from Australia in the 1850s and is now found all over the country up to an altitude of about 1200 metres.

Our weather for November, 2013.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

 A flicker of movement on the verandah caught our eye, and suddenly there was Percy Pigeon admiring himself in the rainwater on the glass-topped table.

 He wasn't only there for the narcissistic opportunity, he was thirsty, too.

It was quite surprising how much he drank before flying off, undoubtedly at Maximum All-up Weight.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of digging new spuds from the garden.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Great excitement today when one of the twins discovered a fantail youngster on his first foray from the nest. Anxious parents tended their kid whenever they could find space among the nosy humans.

The absence of a tail didn't deter him from flying, and he made a short hop to the trailer attached to the farmbike. He flew in a manner resembling a bumblebee - furiously beating wings and a slow methodical advance.
By pressing my finger against his breast, he accepted a ride on my hand, while his supremely handsome features were recorded for posterity on my camera. He then flew off and perched on a nearby shed where his parents were able to refuel him and coax him into a tree. Great excitement for three 10-year old granddaughters - and granddad, too! 

You can see what he will look like when he grows up on my New Zealand birds page.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

At a BBQ on Saturday to honour daughter Kathryn's birthday, granddaughter Meaghan and her Dad Ricky enjoy a light-hearted moment. For those who may think otherwise, Meaghan is merely toying with the bottle - not bent on consuming its contents.

 Siblings Caitlin and Meaghan.

Birthday girl Kathryn with her husband Daniel. The intent look from my youngest can only be interpreted as, "Gee, Dad's a pest with that camera."
Twins Bailey and Caitlin with their brother Cameron doing what kids do best at family functions - ripping into quantities of ice-cream and jelly.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Granddaughter Hayli with her pal, Louie on 13th December 2012. 

She couldn't wait to get re-acquainted on her arrival from Fiji late last night and we had to to rouse Louie from his camp for a quick 'hullo' before bed.

Getting re-acquainted this morning, it is apparent that Louie is about four times the size he was less than a year ago. While Hayli is a bit taller, she hasn't fattened like Louie. Must be the grass!

Friday, 15 November 2013

 It is the time of roses. 
Rose bush after rose bush bursting forth in a display of colour, beauty and perfume, almost as if in competition.

 It is also the time of the sprouting of vegetables. Unfortunately, Bertie Blackbird's and Tomasi Thrush's communities consider any young shoots fair game, as can be seen on the left-hand end of the row of beans. So the project for the day has been to construct a couple of bird-netting frames in an attempt to increase our share of the spoils of the garden. We live in hope that the new frame will be an improvement on the one in the upper part of the picture
"Er, hullooo. Did I sleep in?"
The first blossoms appeared on the nashi tree at least a couple of months ago, and have since transformed into rapidly developing fruit. Just what inspired this late bloom can only be surmised at.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Yesterday, 12th November, was the birthday of Better Half’s father, who was born in 1918, and fittingly named Victor by the nurses who attended his arrival, in honour of the ending of the First World War which finished  at 1100 hours on the 11th of November. This was 2300 hours on the 11th in New Zealand, just a few hours before he was born. It wasn't until the following day that the majority of New Zealanders heard of the cessation of hostilities.

Vic passed away in 2002. He was a veteran of Greece, Crete and the Breakout at Minqar Qaim before being wounded on 22nd January 1943 near El-Aziziya, Libya. He was just 25 miles south of Tripoli which was taken the following day, when he was hit by artillery shrapnel and spent the following 6 weeks in a forward tent hospital before he was well enough to be airlifted in a Liberator to Cairo.

When one reads about how this, the First World War, started (I am currently reading Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914 by Max Hastings) and the idiots that started it, and the monumental egos that were only surpassed by the incompetence of the political and military leaders of the day, one wonders how some dribbling morons can convince a populace to once more take up arms at a later, date.

I came across an amazingly perceptive remark by a wounded German captured by the Russians, and who failed to survive the move back to an ambulance train. The stricken soldier said “The great lords have quarreled, and we must pay for it with our blood, our wives and children.”

As Maxwell notes, most of his comrades on both sides would have agreed that his judgement on the struggle was hard to gainsay.

Lest We Forget

Saturday, 9 November 2013

While on a stroll around the paddocks, we spotted an open gate, which we knew had been closed by my better half the day before. We are fussy about gates being closed properly, as previous painful experience proved a a powerful educator. Nothing like a a mob of boisterous cattle rampaging among the fruit trees and over your garden to drive the point home, eh!

The following day, I was spraying thistles and noticed bullock No. 82 manipulating the gate latch with his tongue. Although we had wondered how the gate had been opened the previous day, I wasn't prepared to believe that one of the paddock-guests was capable of removing the gate latch with his tongue. But there he was, tongue curling and slobbering, jiggling the latch until finally it dropped and hung on its chain. 

Those of us fortunate enough to have opposing digits can open these latches relatively easily, but I'd defy anyone to do it with his tongue!

Bullock No. 82 will bear watching - and I might have to consider getting him an education!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The need for a planter box on the verandah became our Saturday project. My better half was in charge of design, and I in charge of construction. We collaborated on sourcing the materials from the off-cut stack in Watership Down. The box is 800 mm long, 270 mm deep and holds a bit more than 20 litres of soil - in this case strawberry mix. We anticipate a bumper crop - if the avian fraternity don't beat us to it.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Mr. and Mrs. Thrush decided to raise their offspring in the rose bush right in front of the house this year. Unfortunately for the occupants of the eggs, Mrs. Thrush is constantly being scared off by our frequent passage past the nest.

Proud father treated us to an hour's worth of inspired song. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

My better half and I had a lucky escape when we left Fiji on Friday last, for the following day was Hash day at Pacific Harbour. I have received a report on Saturday's run, which was set by Ding Dong, and is well worth reporting here, as it ably verbalises what an interesting time can be had when attending a Hash run. They are normally enormous fun, and, for the last eight years of our stay in Fiji we really looked forward to the Saturday Hash run. The author of the report is the ever-erudite Wigless who has been known to run a half-marathon in the morning, set a Hash run after lunch, and then run the Hash run he set immediately after having set it.

All Hashers have a nickname.

'Lady' is Wigless' faithful mutt, that in dog-years is about 97 years old.

Here followeth the report:

BTW, Saturday’s run was a classic, set by Ding Dong. Only 5 runners set off in pouring rain and we walked through the jungle just across the river from the land I own at the end of Kamba Place.  We got through to the dirt road before Ding Dong said that we’d missed a turnoff up a hill, so we backtracked and found the path.  It was still pouring down and because the trail had been laid in newspaper it was disintegrating rapidly but we pressed on up some precipitous slopes which had been made difficult to negotiate by the mud.  Down the other side in sago swamp and wandering around like souls in purgatory in a sort of tropical Lord of the Rings landscape with rain pelting down making the swamp more like a lake, the grey skies made even more gloomy by the dense foliage overhead, looking for bedraggled newspaper that’s difficult to spot even in the best of circumstances.

Howard was saying that we’d eventually make our way back to the track that we’d just come from, which I took as meaning back to the dirt road.  I was up in front blazing a trail (as the proper marks were just a distant memory - in Ding Dong's case a very distant memory).  So after sloshing through swamp and getting slashed by the thorns I turned right up the hill again and started making my way around to the road.  By now Ding Dong, Crazy Water, One Hung Low and Soul Sister were all getting pretty tired and I wasn't feeling too chipper myself as I’d been for a 20k run with Lady that morning.  Goodness knows how she was feeling as a result.  Anyway by about 5.45 p.m. Ding Dong felt that we were heading in the wrong direction and, once I realised that he was trying to go back to our outward track out rather than to the dirt road obviously I agreed, so we headed left back through the swamp.

So left turn it was and then another left and by now it was 6.30 p.m. and we could hardly see anything.  I was guided by the sounds of Diwali big bangs from Mokasoi and was following that until darkness fell.  We couldn't even see our hands in front of our faces and so everyone held on to the shirt of the person ahead.  Being the first in line all I could do was hold on to the spiny leaves and trunks that I came across as we shuffled forwards at about 100m an hour.  Eventually it got so thick that Ding Dong and Crazy Water were battling a bit with bending down and were calling out stop so they could extricate themselves.  Stopping in sago is a bit of a lottery and 9 times out of 10 wherever you stop seems to contain ferocious ants.  So those stops were only about 15 seconds which was causing a bit of anguish both for the bitten and those left behind, albeit by only 4 or 5 metres.  At one point we stopped and stayed absolutely quiet to listen for more fireworks and that caused Lady, who was about 2m to one side, to start whinging much better as she thought she was lost and we’d left her.

At 7.30 p.m. they called it a day and said they’d sit for the night.  I was keen to carry on as I couldn't think of much worse than sitting in crotch deep water being bitten by mosquitoes for 10 hours.  Even blundering on as slowly as a squashed slug was better than doing nothing as both Ding Dong and I felt that we couldn't have been too far from the river.  Anyway, we did sit for about half an hour until Crazy Water remembered he has a tiny LED bulb on his car key ring.  He then shuffled about getting one or two palm fronds for us to sit on and eventually I suggested we carry on for as long as the battery lasted.  Amazing how something so puny as one tiny bulb can make such a difference in the pitch black.  In the land of the blind the one eyed man, etc.

We struggled through what is the thickest section of sago swamp it’s ever been my displeasure to battle past and after 15 minutes (or 50m) I broke out and could see the sky.  20m further on, there was the river so we waded across it and ambled back to Ding Dong's house.  Got back at about 8.30 p.m., covered in mud with ankles, legs, arms and hands slashed and lots of pointed sago thorns sticking out like sea urchins.  A night to remember.  The après was still fairly good, all things considered.  Pity you weren't with us to enjoy it.

Yeah, right!

Wigless has supplied a Google Earth picture so that we may visualise their adventure. The creek is known as the Qaraniqio, or "Shark Hole".

Sunday, 27 October 2013

We were astonished to see the growth in the garden on our return. We have had 212 mm of rain so far for the month (130 mm of that on 8th Oct) so it hasn't been exactly dry. 

While the spuds have decided that conditions are perfect, the sweetcorn and peas have not liked the conditions at all as we've had only about a 10% germination rate from them. The lowest temperature we have had in our absence was +2.1°, with the mean being 12.4°.