Life changes

tree houseAbout three weeks ago my family and I made a very big life change. We moved from comfortable, convenient, leafy suburbia on the Kapiti Coast to a 7-acre block of land in rural Manawatu. This involved moving ourselves out of our 213 m2 4-bedroom, double-garaged home into a garage-less house of exactly half that size.

There is a very good reason for us doing this: it wasn’t the plan.

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Did you know moreporks mewed?

baby morepork.jpegI woke up with the rain gurgling down the guttering at 5:30am this morning, made myself my customary morning coffee and sat down to do some work before the morning’s quiet was broken by the duvet-bearing preschooler sharing her first thoughts of the day with me. As I typed, my muted keyboard percussion was accompanied by a “mew mew mew” sound* from the lanky poplars that line our top paddock.

This curious mewing is the less well known call of the morepork (ruru) – the onomatopoeic “more-pork” call being the one we associate with them. (In fact, until only a week or so back I had no idea what creature this mystery call belonged to.) I am not sure what the mewing call means. I suppose, just like humans, owls would get bored with just saying the same thing over and over again (as a mother of young children, I can empathise completely), so perhaps it is just for variety – who knows? (Perhaps someone does – if so, please be in touch.)

 In any case, as far as morning calls go, I think this is up there with the best.

*You can listen here (on the excellent NZbirdsonline site) to the various morepork calls.

Image: Newly fledged young. Wellington, January 2009. Image © Peter Reese by Peter Reese

[Originally published on http://www.catherineknight.nz, 29 April 2017]

The New Zealand love of natives

I was recently recommended the book “Living with Natives – New Zealanders talk about their love of native plants”, jointly edited by Ian Spellerberg, professor of nature conservation at Lincoln University and Michele Frey, an environmental planner. In the book, 44 New Zealanders, from politicians, artists to farmers and business people, talk about their relationship with native plants through short essays accompanied by plentiful photographs (and paintings, in the case of artist Diana Adams – see painting left). Each essay ends with tips about growing natives from the author, many of them very wise – and some even profound! Continue reading

Creating our own Totara Reserve in Pohangina

For a long time before I met my husband it had been my dream to find a block of land with remnant bush (indigenous forest) on it and regenerate the bush using locally sourced species. Not long after meeting my would-be husband, I shared this dream with him, and he responded – “That is my dream too!” … Continue reading

“This sacrifice will bring retribution” – deforestation and its consequences

The following excerpts about deforestation  in New Zealand are from the Evening Post, 29 March 1910. They are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.

“This sacrifice will bring retribution,” was a recent comment of The Times in relation to the shortsighted Australasian practice of “improving” forest land by wholesale destruction of the native woods. The process is so gradual that it does not impress as it should the resident who sees it year after year going on before his eyes; but there are those who can look back forty or fifty years and recall the aspect of wooded hills, vocal with the song of native birds, now waste and barren, scarred with landslips, not even affording pasture — an eyesore instead of a beauty… Continue reading

We want your contributions!

Everyone has environmental histories to share (for example, see The lawn mower Part 2 – an enduring relationship). These are stories about our interactions with the environment, and the realisations we make from these. For instance, older people in Kapiti have shared how they used to row boats down the Waikanae River as children (but how now, the water is reduced to a trickle for much of the year and any kind of boating activity would prove a challenge). Or, people may remember catching eels or freshwater crayfish in the creek down the back of the farm as a child — a much less common children’s pastime today… Continue reading

Totara Reserve: from exploitation to conservation

Totara Reserve is situated in the Pohangina Valley on the eastern side of the Pohangina River, in the Manawatu [click here to view location]. It encompasses an area of 348 hectares, much of it podocarp forest, made up of totara, matai, rimu and kahikatea, as well as some black beech.

Its history as a reserve began in 1886, when it was gazetted under the provisions of the State Forests Act (1885) as a ‘reserve for growth & preservation of timber and for river conservation purposes’. This at a time when the area was been ‘opened up’ for settlement – settlement in the Pohangina Valley area began with Ashhurst in March 1879.

In 1932, a portion of the Reserve was designated as a Scenic Reserve under the provisions of the Scenery Preservation Act 1908, and vested in the Pohangina County Council. Continue reading