Totara tree berries much loved by native birds including the Tui
Totara tree towers towards the sky
We happen to share our place with many Totara trees, some about 80 to 100 years old and still growing. We are mindful of our custodial responsibility. Trees have deep meaning reflected in Maori forest mythology a site where Maori have many whakatauki or sayings that use trees as metaphors.
Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness, wrote Kahlil Gibran.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy at the end of his address to delegates at the Anniversary Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences, told what the French Marshal Lyautey said to his gardener:
“Plant a tree tomorrow.” And the gardener said, “It won’t bear fruit for a hundred years.” “In that case,” Lyautey said to the gardener, “plant it this afternoon.
I could not decide on one quote hence I include three in my second challenge post. Thank you Carol for nominating me for a three-day quote challenge. Please check out Carol’s Food For Thought post at https://cookingforthetimechallenged.wordpress.com
In the fun spirit of voluntary participation of the challenge, nominees may choose to
Number 8 grandchild, born in the eighth month of 2008, weighed in at 7lb 11oz. He arrived into our world at 7.12 this morning. There’s some lucky association with the number 8 linked to this birthday – I haven’t made sense of it yet. It’s very special to have been invited by son and D-in-Law to be present at the birth as well as the other grandmother. At present, Himself and I are babysitting the older two boys – twenty-one month old Turbo-toddler and Three-year old. Three-year old, when told that Mummy and Daddy had a nice surprise for him, thought it’d be a Benten or at least a new Spiderman toy.
At least the weather cooperated as we drove into town early this morning. It is pleasantly cool and conditions are drying out. I was able to get into the garden to pick a few flowers (freesias, daffodils, calendula, borage) to make a litte posy for each boy to give to their Mummy. Before we entered the maternity annexe, we had a ‘serious’ discussion about using quiet voices, walk only, how to hold a bunch of flowers and hold onto Nana and Poppas’ hands. The cute factor lasted about five pre-schooler nano-seconds after we entered Mummy’s room. Turbo-toddler patted new-born brother on the head and was then ready to be off to ‘explore’ the interesting new surroundings. Needless to say, it was a relatively short first visit.
Given that the magnolias are making a great show and that the Kowhai have started to bloom, I think I’ll probably choose one of these as the baby’s special tree. Last year, I wrote about tree-planting as a living remembrance or celebration of life. The sound of Tui has been heard recently – a harbinger of spring. Tui love the Kowhai nectar and it enjoys a special bird status in the hearts of New Zealanders.
The ‘no ordinary storm’ has wreaked its havoc across our part of the country. After a whole day without power we were switched back on about three hours ago. Things haven’t been too bad here. We’re somewhat sheltered by hills from the full brunt of the easterlies that are continuing to sweep down the east coast of the country. We kept the fire going and like others, heeded the advice to stay indoors and sat it out. I did venture out with the camera at the height of the deluge and got soaked for my effort.
Things seemed to quieten in our neighbourhood about mid-afternoon so Himself chose to inspect the fencelines rather than play Scrabble! Just because he doesn’t like playing against someone who uses more than four letters to make words! So I got the camera out again. This time, it was our fences that took a real battering.
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.
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.
A few nights ago at 2.00 a.m. we woke to an almighty thunderous bang. Our first thought was that lightning had struck our roof. A sub-antarctic weather pattern had swept up the country during the night. Multiple lightning strikes lit the sky that night – including a spectacular show of fork lightning. I pulled the duvet over my head – couldn’t be bothered worrying at that time of the night.
There were no floods this time – we recorded about 15 to 16 mm of rain. But the stormy squalls have created squelchy soil conditions. Our problem is to keep the animals off the grass. Heavy animals do real damage to the grass as their hooves sink into the water-logged clay soil. We’d anticipated heavy rain and Himself shifted our cattle the previous day to a sheltered paddock should it rain heavily. We have a hard stand-off area that was once historically a minor rural farm road that runs between our polyhouse and the totara trees. It’s a great windbreak and shelter from the cold rain for the animals. Even still, the pugging is visible in the paddocks and our concern is the compaction of the soil.
The blustery westerly wintery fronts continue. Today is the first opportunity I’ve had to get a good look at the vegetable garden after the stormy weather. However, there’s always something to cheer about and to enjoy. The cyclamen and daffodils are rewarding. I’m relieved to see vegies I planted in May are growing as they should. At least the day and night temperatures are still conducive to growth. Snow doesn’t happen in our region – but we can get a light frost in our valley.
I am always concerned about the life of soil under my gumboots. I’ve been reading Gaia’s Garden; a guide to home-scale permaculture by Toby Hemenway (2000). Ponder this:
An acre of good pasture may support a horse of two, say about a half-ton of aboveground animals. But living in the soil of that acre may be 2 tons of worms and another 2 tons of bacteria, fungi, and soil animals such as millipedes and mites.
The health of the myriad of animal life is one heap of responsibility. At present my soil is rich with earthworms. They and all the other mites need humus to feed on in order to rebuild the soil. If we’re to have animals on our lifestyle block then we have to keep the micro live-stock well nourished with humus.
Well, I’ve been getting dirt under my fingernails. Tonight, I rushed home from work and changed into my alter-ego suit of gumboots and old gardening clothes that I keep just for this purpose. Himself says I’m never to complain ever again about his favourite perfectly good for-another-twenty-years pair of trousers. What is it about Kiwi blokes and their clothes? It’d be OK if this bloke wore them to garden in!
The weather has cooperated big time – we’re having unusually benevolent night-time temperatures so I haven’t had to worry about covering things with the frost cloth. But that doesn’t mean cold nights aren’t going to happen here in Northland. I’m intent on getting as much planted and established as quickly as possible. That includes red onions, spring onions, chives and brassicas. It’s Matariki here down-under and the solstice is in a few days so the garlic is in (it’s traditional to plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day).
I changed my blog header photo to reflect the early winter scene at our place. I enjoy the sculptural spectacle of the bare branches. There’s always something to marvel at – be it the silky spider webs or the last of the gaudy coloured autumn leaves. Today, a few days since that photo was taken, the first Magnolia (Star Wars) blooms have burst into their full crimson glory. I’ll post a show-off photo later on. Oh – and the Paper-white and Earlicheer daffodils have made an early appearance! I love going out each day and discovering the excitement of new growth. Such energy in my garden.
The cattle pictured in the paddocks are very happy to get bedding hay at nights now as the grass growth has slowed. They’ll be sent to the local cattle sale in about a week. We don’t keep heavy animals over winter because they pug the soil which in turn affects the grass growth.
I don’t know what’s happened to my Platial NZ map – it’s disappeared. The joys of learning how to manage a blog.