Strategy is to Pick up Polystyrene Particles from the Stream Bank


Plastic pollution seemingly never stops. In my previous post, I was proud of having cleared the stream of inorganic debris and improving the water flow. And I was delight by the number of freshwater mussels. Today, I spotted and picked up clumps of white polystyrene partially obscured by flattened grass on the streambank where the native birds, Pukeko, hangout and feed on the freshwater mussels.   

Clumps picked up from flattened grass on streambank where Pukeko eat  freshwater mussels.

Kākahi, freshwater mussels, were a traditional food source for Māori. I just hope there is no white micro-particle pollutants in the stream water, home to this native filter-feeding species. I read how plastic toxins can work through the fish food chain onto our meal plates and can harm human health. Sea creatures are known to be ingesting quantities of plastic particle debris sloshing about in the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps this logic holds for the freshwater food chain? 

A quick Google search shows experts worldwide are concerned by the evidence of the mounting problem of polystyrene particles. I am now left with questions:

  • have the filter-feeding freshwater mussels ingested any nano polystyrene particles floating in the streamwater?
  • did the Pukeko peck at the clumps of polystyrene on the streambank?
  • if so, how will both species be affected?
  • did the polystyrene particles get blown by wind from a roadside rubbish pile to be swept into this small stream during a flood?

Council rubbish trucks come weekly to collect household rubbish and recycling items from the roadside. We comply with Council’s regulations. Our supermarket is committed to phasing out the use of plastic bags. I can work with that plan. Large hardware items are commonly encased in a polystyrene packing frame inside a cardboard box. That stumps me. I feel guilty taking it to the Refuse Station.

Polystyrene packing that encased a monitor

The upshot is, I do not know enough about the effect of the ingestion of polystyrene particles on our native freshwater fish and bird species. It may seem like a handful of polystyrene particles. However, I am not optimistic. All I know for now, is that I still need to pick up many nano-particles of polystyrene <3mm in diameter from the native birds’ streamside feeding area. That is the first step.

Polystyrene Particle
Nano-particle measuring <3mm picked up from the streamside

Next, I will need to check the stream waterline for polystyrene clumps caught in overhangs where the filter-feeding mussels grow. That then, is my for-now strategy.

Hope is on the Horizon for Kākahi and other Freshwater Dwellers


Pukeko and ducks have been feasting in the shallows of the streambed, leaving dozens of empty Kākahi shells, tops bitten off, scattered on the coarse silty sediment. I counted. And I know this has not always been so. I also tried to count the outer rings on one of the larger mussel shells to get a possible indication of age. I am no expert, but I think nine or more rings means a possible age of nine or more years.  The stream is a favourite and tranquil place to stroll. It has become second-nature to look out for eels and other freshwater life. Freshwater habitats in New Zealand have been under threat for a range of reasons. The outlook in my rural backyard is promising.

Empty freshwater mussel shells in the water on the stream-bed. Left there by the Pukeko.

Imagine if you will, Kākahi, a teeny-weeny freshwater mussel larva, latching onto Kōaro, a host native fish, for the migratory swim of its life. The journey may take a few weeks. Destination. Upstream to clear, shallow freshwater that flows unimpeded, shaded by overhanging Totara trees. The young hitchhiker will hop off the bus to make itself comfortable in its new digs. For this is where it will settle to live an independent life and to grow for decades if the watery conditions stay favourable. I may not see it for some time until it is bigger. Nine years is a long time to wait. 

Kākahi Freshly opened mussel grown to about 90mm. Possibly nine years of age.

It has been hard work for more than ten years to clear dumped, inorganic materials, fallen trees and pest plants. I am delighted to think that the increase in the mussel shell numbers might, just might, be in a small way, a result of us having committed to cleaning up the stream when we first came here.  I am proud of the way native ferns are regenerating  along the stream bank. The water now flows more freely.  We  put water troughs in each paddock for animals to drink from. Electric fencing is our way of keeping animals off the streambank. We have not built a permanent fence because of bad experiences with damaged fences during storm-related flooding.

Cleared area. Upstream water spills over a rocky ledge.

I hope the Kākahi and their Kōaro will have an extended stay in the shallow water and the coarse silty sediment under the ferns and the streambank overhangs. I am hopeful we will be able to think beyond a nine-year lifespan No more declining species. The freshwater creatures have support from afar. Change is happening. There is political support for campaigns to clean up New Zealand’s waterways.  Stream protection means

“if you have water supplied by a stream, you have an obligation to safeguard the quality of the water leaving your property – for downstream users and for other stream life.”

Hope for our rivers, lakes and streams is on the horizon.

Car Indicator Lights Blink to Signal a Change of Direction

The New Zealand Road Code is very clear about when and how road-users should indicate their change of direction.

Roadworthy vehicles must have indicator lights, front and back, that flash on and off. Signal at least three seconds before you change direction when driving on the road. It is a safety issue. Considerate drivers are mindful of others.

Car Indicator Light
Car front indicator light flashes on and off to signal driver’s intention to change direction.

It was a busy summer holiday season as people headed to the northern beaches. Lots of traffic congested our regional roads. Drivers who made sudden changes in direction without signalling have left us at times with a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel as we took evasive action. 

Road Use 101. Turn your blinkers on to signal a change of direction. It is recommended drivers use a hand signal (not an offensive gesture) if the front and rear indicator lights on their car do not blink.



Broken Branch a Shock to the Tree


Whenever a tree breaks or falls, I feel a sense of pain. I think about the loss of the ecological habitats and homes to generations of birds and insects. Trees are part of nature’s cycle of life. Cattle rest in the cool shade. The animals stretch their necks to munch the edible foliage and nutritious autumn seed pods.  The tree roots stabilise the soil. Leaves colour with the seasons before falling to be raked into my garden mulch and compost. Ornamental, mature ‘Sunburst’ Gleditsia Triacanthos – Golden Honey Locust and ‘Sweet Gum’ Liquidambar Styraciflua trees, planted before our time here, line the eastern side of our long driveway. 

This week, a humid weather front with north-easterly winds gusting strongly at times, caused a big Liquidambar branch to snap but not sever its attachment to the tree trunk. There it rests, beyond our reach, in a precarious position, weighing heavily across the lacy foliage of a Gleditsia branch now hanging low over our entrance. Our driveway gate is shut for now and a sign, ‘Beware Broken Branch’, hangs on the gatepost.

When a tree is damaged, Himself nips into his workshop to check and fuel his chainsaw in readiness to deliver the cruel and final cut. There is firewood to saw and stack ahead of winter. There is pruning to be done to remove potential hazards. There are some jobs he can do and there are jobs beyond the scope of his chainsaw. The wisdom is to know the difference. Safety is paramount.

Shelterbelt trees
Some of the felled Leyland Cypress shelter belt trees. Lots of firewood.

Leyland Cypress trees once lined the other side of our driveway. Planted close together as a shelter belt before our time here, they were never pruned. They grow fast to a height of thirty metres and become wide-branching. Bark had grown over the fence wires and signs of dieback and wood rot meant the trees were at risk of being felled by high winds. We had professionals do the dangerous work of felling this row of 120 trees. For days, chainsaws, screeched and snarled in loud protest above the low base undertones of the heavy rumblings of the industrial grinding and mulching machine.

Thirteen years later, the tree stumps are rotting into the ground. We had firewood forever it seemed.  Truckloads of  shredded foliage and small branches were dumped to form a large mound of organic matter near my garden area. The resulting compost has since been added to my raised vegetable beds. 

Every tree matters to the world. Their limbs reach to the sun and bring goodness back to the earth for our health. Trees are a litmus test of the state of the health of the earth. I am protective of my trees. I know the trees will have to be pruned. An arborist is coming to inspect the tree damage and other work to be done. I will put my trust in the arborist to prune the overhanging branches with skill and care.


I want healthy trees. I want the trees to heal well after their limbs are amputated. I do not want the trees to succumb to post-surgical shock.   


I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.  

Dr. Suess. The Lorax.

Her agile fingers were nimble and never idle when doing crochet


“Can you fix this?” Eldest son handed over his cherished childhood blanket crocheted by his Grandmother more than forty years ago.

Crocheted Blanket
Adult son’s cherished childhood blanket crocheted by his Grandmother more than 40 years ago.

It is with trepidation I eye the repair needed in one of the blanket squares. The decades old wool has frayed at one point and the thread has unravelled.

Knitting Needles
Some of Mother-in-law’s knitting needles used for many a soft toy, baby garment or other knitwear.

My mother-in-law was much admired for her woollen handcrafts. She knitted delicate baby garments on fine needles, soft toys, patterned children’s jerseys. Much of her work was created without a printed pattern. Her knitting needles were always in use.  Her nimble fingers were never idle, her mind ever sharp as she checked tension and mentally calculated size and counted stitches and rows. She also sewed, did embroidery  and crochet work.

The blanket in question I remember being created from scraps of wool accumulated over the years. I remember seeing how a strand of wool,  looping over the fingers of her left hand, was pulled in nimble, quick repeated movements as she plied the crochet hook with the fingers of her right hand. I even did a bit of the crochet work as we chatted though handwork is not really my thing.

Both my now adult sons have kept their blankets and their special soft toys created for them by their much loved Grandma. Her legacy lies in scraps of wool transformed into squares and stitched together with love by her hands. M-i-L knitted well into her eighties. Her fingers and hands did slow up in her last years but she got the item finished.

Crochet Items
Mother-in-law’s crochet hooks and wooden cotton reels studded with four small nails used for a childhood crochet activity.

I sorted through M-i-L’s old knitting needles and crochet hooks. I have been practising and training my hands to do basic crochet work.  The repair will happen. I do not pretend to be deft and quick as my M-i-L when doing crochet handwork. My fingers are not as agile.

A Loophole is for a Shoelace


I love to read. Anytime. Anywhere. I can get distracted when exercising in the gym which is not my comfort zone. The gardening (a comfort zone) I do can be hard, heavy physical work. I also like to tell people who will listen that I just go to keep Himself company during his post-cardiac programme. However, I digress.

I read the inspirations that urge those of us working out in the gym to strive harder towards a healthier and stronger physical self. I enjoy the wit and subtlety of the memes. Words feature on posters on the gym walls and flash across the screens mounted above the treadmills and  cross-trainer machines.

  • Get started. 
  • Can’t is not a word.
  • Sweat is fat crying.
  • Just do it anyway.
  • Can you kick it? Yes you can.
  • Ora up. You’re alive, but are you living?
  • Fit is not a destination, it is a way of life.
  • The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.
  • There are seven days in the week, someday isn’t one of them. 
  • We do not stop exercising because we grow old, we grow old because we stop exercising.

The nation’s health statistics make for alarming reading. We, the public, are all in this lifeboat together. No matter our age, our (dis)-ability, our health status, our weight, our family and work schedules. Doctors are writing green prescriptions for their patients for a more active lifestyle. 

“What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day, or being dead 24 hours a day?” Randy Glasbergen.

Gym Shoes
Loopholes are for shoe laces

I get the message.

Get to the gym. Get into that gym gear. Lace up those gym shoes. 

No excuse. No escape.

There is no loophole in my workout for life programme.

A Study in Grandparenting


My mother said of her eleven grandchildren, “they’re an interesting lot”. My mother-in-law loved her five grandchildren unconditionally. Both women were very present in the lives of these children, each quite different in character, each with their hopes and dreams as they grew towards adulthood. They know their grandmothers’ family stories. Both women were comfortable in their grandmotherly contributions toward the children’s upbringing. The kids respected their grandparents. As the joke goes, at Grandma’s, the answer is always, “yes!”

I study my eight grandchildren and I echo the sentiments. People who go before are our mentors. Their  lived experiences and words show us the way. The older generation has a vital part to play in shaping the lives of the younger generation. We share our heritage and values that have held true over time. We each do it in our own way.  

To have a sense of belonging, to know you are cared for within a loving family and are part of a cohesive community, shapes your sense of self and direction in life.

Whina Cooper
Hand in hand with her mokopuna, Whina Cooper walks the gravel road on the protest march to Wellington.

It is worth reading about the late Dame Whina Cooper, whāea and kuia, influential Māori leader who protested against the loss of tribal lands and the alienation of her people.Much is written about her determination to restore pride to people, their sense of self and  access to their rightful heritage embodied in their ancestral lands.

Whina Cooper’s actions and words are a study in grandparenting the next generation, in giving direction and showing the way to care for the next generation in Aotearoa New Zealand .