My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden

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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 are 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.


The trees yawn and stretch their limbs to the sun

Early this morning I went for a walk. The cat stopped following me once I left the sanctuary of the garden and sat  down to sun himself by the gate until my return. The chickens gave up following me in disgust because I had no food bucket. A rabbit crouching in the long grass and I startled each other.  A white tail bobbed off at speed under the trees. A bird, hidden high in the branches, made its presence heard. Further along the path, a loud squawk was accompanied by a flapping of wings as a beautifully coloured cock pheasant took flight (or fright) from under the ferns.

No animal life stirred in the stream as the sun gave life to the day and as its fingers of light reached through the trees. Eels have retreated deep into their watery stream bed to dream of their long swim through the rivers to the coast and of their arduous journey to the spawning grounds in the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean. The trees yawn and stretch their limbs and preen themselves in nature’s mirror, readying for another day.

My humble stream moment makes me think of poems by two esteemed and eloquent New Zealand poets

“The sea, to the mountains, to the river” by Hone Tuwhare

“The river in you” by Brian Turner

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My Garden ~ no-dig approach to growing soil and vegetables



The basic tenet of my gardening actions is to care for the soil. I so appreciate the value of the living organisms that function sight unseen beneath the ground. I suppose it’s a biological partnership that we enter into when we garden. Worms recycle humus and produce vermicast as they dig and delve beneath our feet. That’s why I try to tread lightly – and when, like we do here, keep a few animals for grazing purposes, it gets difficult at times to walk with a light footprint. I seek to grow healthy soil and to establish gardens with minimal input.

In Permaculture Ethics in Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison with Reny Mia Slay (pg. 3. 1995), wrote

Care of the earth means care of all living and nonliving things: soils, species and their varieties, atmosphere, forests, micro-habitats, animals, and waters. it implies harmless and rehabilitative activities, active conservation, ethical and frugal use of resources, and “right livelihood” (working for useful and beneficial systems.

I am concerned about the long-term consequences of hoof pugging by our animals. We don’t have a large herd in the commercial sense (that’s another and broader-issue). I have to think of sustainable solutions for our place. Do we use the tractor to plough the soil? The machinery would further compact the soil and cut up the micro-animal life beneath the ground. I prefer (idealistically some might say) to do my best to grow soil with the biomass we have naturally to hand. We rotate our animals away from wet paddocks and fence off stream-banks to minimise erosion. On the up side, our cattle provide manure that attracts the worms that transform it into vermicast. Trees or branches that are felled during stormy weather are a recyclable source of bio-degradable matter. But then chainsaws and chipper machinery uses fuel energy. And so it it goes weighing up the pros and cons.

I guess at this point, I use my energy where it produces fresh food. I’ll let my photos do the rest of the talking.