Monthly Archives: June 2011

Feeding the birds

A bird does not sing because it has an answer.
It sings because it has a song.

Chinese Proverb

Today winter has really struck with gale force, bitterly cold south easterlies and driving rain showers. Over the past few weeks I have been tying apples to a kowhai tree to provide some winter food for the small Silvereyes or Waxeyes that live in and around the garden.

They are amazing to watch as they hang on to the apple or string and cleverly peck the soft flesh from the gap made by my apple corer. At times they virtually disappear within the apple once they have removed a good portion of the fruit.

So here are a couple of photos. Firstly of the new red delicious apple waiting to be enjoyed.

Then the hollowed out remains of the apples.

And finally for those of you who are not familiar with NZ Silvereyes here it is.

Annual garden bird survey 2011

Here is something I really enjoy participating in. I love native birds and delight in the fact that we have more and more of them appearing in our urban garden.

For those of you living in New Zealand here are the details via email from Eric Spurr:
“Dear Garden Bird Survey participant. Thank you for taking part in previous surveys. I hope you are able to participate in this year’s survey too. Please record the largest number of each species you detect at any one time, in 1 hour of observation, sometime between 25 June and 3 July.

You can be either inside (e.g. in the living room at home or classroom at school looking out the window) or outside (e.g. on a verandah or garden seat). If you have a bird feeder or water bath, you may like to watch the part of your garden where that is. You don’t have to be able to see your whole garden, just part of your garden will do.

I’ve attached a pdf of the survey form, or you can download one from the garden bird website:

Data can be entered online on the above website or posted back to the address on the survey form.
Thank you for participating. Happy bird watching. Kind regards, Eric Spurr

PS. Results of last year’s survey

In case you haven’t yet seen the results of last years survey on the garden bird survey website, briefly, silvereye returned to the top of the table of species counted in greatest numbers, with house sparrow second, starling third, and blackbird fourth. A grand total of 187,858 birds were counted in 4193 gardens (an average of nearly 45 birds per garden). This included 55,543 silvereyes, 52,779 house sparrows, 11,837starlings, and 11,156 blackbirds. These species have been the top four in all four years of the survey. As in previous years, the only other native species apart from silvereye to make the top 10 were tui and fantail. Again, thank you for helping contribute to these results.

Garlic and Gumboots

Saturday dawned sunny, mild and windfree so with the shortest day just behind us I decided to plant my garlic. I had prepared the tubs a few weeks earlier to allow the sheep pellets, lime, compost, bulb food and dry all purpose plant food to simmer away in the weather in order for the soil to be ready for the bulbs.

I have two tubs for garlic this year. One is planted with elephant garlic and the other with ordinary garlic. The beauty of elephant garlic is that small bulblets form off the head which can be planted next season to produce more large, tasty heads. My two elephant garlic heads this summer yielded 13 bulblets…..a kind of elephant family herd size I reckon. I have planted all 13 bulblets so I expect to have masses of elephant herds next summer

I prefer the cloves of elephant garlic. They are large and their papery skin is easily pealed. One clove is often enough for the dish I am cooking. The taste is somewhat milder and nuttier than ordinary garlic. The stalks and flowers are pretty impressive in height and size too.

“Garlic used as it should be used is the soul, the divine essence, of cookery. The cook who can employ it successfully will be found to possess the delicacy of perception, the accuracy of judgment, and the dexterity of hand which go to the formation of a great artist.” – Mrs. W. G. Waters
I’m not sure that my cooking with garlic reaches the heights of great artistry as Mrs Waters says it will but it is really satisfying to know that growing garlic to cook can contribute to the soul and divine essence of cookery. That has to be good for us.

While the weather was fine and dry on Saturday we have had plenty of rain and the grass is sodden. So later in the day it was gumboots time while we trimmed trees and did some general tidying up in the garden. Thank goodness for gumboots as they keep your feet warm and dry but there is also something very satisfying in sloshing about in gumboots. It is probably a memory from childhood when gumboots allowed you the freedom to jump in puddles, wade through shallow streams, mess about in mud and enjoy different sensory experiences on the ground.

We even have a quirky, comic song about Gumboots here in New Zealand, written by John Clarke. Here is the chorus and a verse:

“If it weren’t for your gumboots, where would ya be?
You’d be in the hospital or infirmary
‘coz you would have a dose of the ‘flu, or even pleurisy
If ya didn’t have yer feet in yer gumboots.

Now there’s rugby boots and racing boots, and boots for drinkin’ rum.
But the only boots I’m never without, are the ones that start with “gum”.
I’ve got short ones and long ones, and some up to me belt.
I’m never dressed ’till I’ve got on me gumboots.

If it weren’t for your gumboots, where would ya be?
You’d be in the hospital or infirmary
‘coz you would have a dose of the ‘flu, or even pleurisy
If ya didn’t have yer feet in yer gumboots.”

Saturday Tip: Horses…..or Zebras??

Here is a phrase that I’ve found very useful in times of confusion, worry, and possibility. It is used a lot in the medical profession and it goes something along the lines of: “If you hear the sound of approaching hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras”.

I’m not a medical professional but the phrase serves to remind me to proceed with caution, to consider the simple rather than the complex, to allow time and observation before leaping to dramatic conclusions.

A simple tradition

I posted a letter to my 2 year old grandson today. He is on holiday in a different city for about a fortnight with his Mum and Dad.

My Mum would regularly write to my children and especially if we were on holiday for a reasonable length of time and mail was able to reach us. My children all remember how their Gran wrote to them and we still have some of those letters and cards. She would also enclose cuttings from newspaper or other written items that she thought would interest the recipient.

Mum was a great correspondent and wrote to many, many people regularly. She also loved to receive letters. A letter arriving would see her make a cup of tea and sit straight down to read the news. She often expressed her delight in the mail that came and how much she enjoyed being able to read and re- read the letter. A long, newsy phone call from afar was also enjoyed but the written word she could savour over time and draw much from it.

As well as some questions about their road trip, sights along the way and what they might be doing on their holiday I briefly told our wee chap about life here. I cut a photo from the newspaper which he will be interested in and his aunty drew him a picture with a short message to enjoy.

I hope he enjoys his letter as much as we enjoyed putting it together for him.

The Shortest Day

Today is the shortest day and many people have been celebrating this winter solstice, acknowledging the importance of the dark but anticipating the return of the light.

It continues to be a very testing year here in New Zealand, especially for the residents of Christchurch and surrounding areas.

While nature has been showing her hand dramatically in many ways, nature has also been kind to us here in “windy” Wellington. We have had an exceptionally long period of calm weather with temperatures being unseasonably warm and none of us have any complaints about those two features.

We have had a good many days of cloud this week and the daylight is very low. However from my living room window there is a flowering cherry tree which still has an abundance of leaves which have all turned into their autumn finery after some clear, chilly nights last week.

Set against the low light it is a beacon of colour and vibrancy to relish and to remind us that sun, light and heat will return in time.

My photos do not necessarily do it justice as it seems to glow to the naked eye.