Tuesday, 24 December 2013

First Tomtit Sighting at Ratty's Landing

At 7:30 this morning Melva spotted a Tomtit in the Kanuka beside our deck. We had a good extended sighting at between 2 ~ 3 metres. It was a juvenile male. Wonderful. This is a first for us at Ratty's Landing.
At the same time we watched a family of fantails being fed by the parents.

Monday, 23 December 2013


Checked our bees today. The little ladies are working hard. Should have honey this season. It already tastes good.

Picking Blackberries

At Last!! We have berries.  Last year we could only pick about a cup full. Our blackberries just did not fruit.
Melva grading berries for muffins, jelly and buckles
Between Sunday and this morning we picked about 12.5 litres of the beautiful dark fruit.
We have two wild varieties here. One with white blossoms fruits over Christmas.  The other (Mauve blossoms) starts fruiting at the end of January. So in a good year we have blackberries from about the 20th December to the end of February.
We fill the freezer. Melva makes jetty, jam, muffins, buckles and deserts. One of the best is blackberry and rhubarb crumble. We get enough to last the year from our patch. If it is a good year that is. It really is a bit warm in the north for blackberries. They grow well but fruit can dry on the canes due to the heat.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Summer - Wonderful Summer

The Pohutukawa is in flower so Summer is here

We have eaten our first stalk of bananas. The whole stalk fell off the tree in a wind while still unripe. We ripened them on the deck in the sun and they were every bit as good as expected. We still have four more at various stages of readiness. The newest is just a shoot at the top of the tree.

We had a lovely Sunday evening. Melva cooked some sausages, we grabbed a bottle of wine, picked up some hot potato chips from the Ngunguru Takeaway, drove down to the Ngunguru School car park where there is a beautiful sand spit / estuary view and had our dinner there. It really is a lovely peaceful spot and easy to do.

We also found a pair of stick insects in the Kanuka by our deck. There used to be a lot but since sparrows arrive we hardly ever see them now.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Bees Bees Bees and Other Things

Still only two hives but now we have lots of bees.  On a sunny warm day like today our valley is humming. Every plant with flowers has bees on it. They have already been to our peach trees that now have more fruit set than ever. Here are a few of the plants that the bees are visiting today.

The most interesting thing is that an insect has drilled the Borage flowers near the base and the bees are going there for the nectar instead of down the flower.

Yesterday we also saw a Common Green Gecko by the drive. Nice to know that we have them.

Borage showing holes in flower base

Borage and bee





Borage and Echium

Echium & Daisies

Bee in Fejoa



Bees carrying pollen





Elder Berry


Sunday, 20 October 2013


The Fantails that were nesting by the deck have left the nest and are busy being fed by the parent birds. Fantastic! They made a perfect nest this time in a nicely sheltered location. There are two chicks. One of the parents is the bird that visits the compost bin with Melva. It is not frightened of us at all. Such dear little birds.

A Walk on Whatitiri Maunga

What a fantastic place. At the top of Whatitiri Maunga near Whangarei in Northland there is a small DOC Reserve accessed from Simons Road. It is public road all the way to the reserve though not all maintained by Whangarei District Council. There is a gate. Just go over it.
The Reserve is predominantly Tarairi but there are fine specimens of Tawa and Pukatea and Kohekohe. There is an abundance of New Zealand Jasmine and Hen and Chickens ferns. We even found a Green Hooded Orchid. There are no tracks in the reserve but it is easy to explore. This bush is interesting as it is quite different to most other northland bush.
At 351 metres Whatitiri Maunga is one of the higher hills in the region. The views from around the reserve are fantastic
One of the views

A small Tarairi near the reserve



An old Tawa

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Late Spring

The Fantails are feeding their first clutch just near our deck. We have just discovered that if one sees a fantail flying in a straight line it is flying a feed home to the chicks. The rest of the time, and all year, they do acrobatics with that fancy tail showing off.
Cuckoo arrived from a South West Pacific Island on the 26th September. Late to our place this year. The first arrival of this little migratory bird we heard of was an early 7th September.

Our early blackberries are in flower. Almost no fruit last summer. We need them to perform this summer. The blooms were visited by lots of bees this sunny day.

Melva found a new, quite rare shrub yesterday. It is called Alseuosmia Banksii - Variation Linariifolia. It is in bloom and its perfume is fantastic. Lovely small shrub in the understory. It grows to about a metre high. We also found that we have a second variety of Mahoe. It too is in bloom.

We have had two bee hives since last February. The second hive has been fairly quiet. Lately the new post winter brood hatched so it and the first hive are rocking. Loads of bees. They are everywhere collecting pollen and nectar as more and more flowers bloom.

Always some more Fernbird stories. Some friends from the OSNZ visited and the birds performed as expected. Difficult to get photos but I love this great shot. There is another of one carrying something white and round in its beak back to its nest. Too blurry to use. We had fantastic sightings that day with the birds very close to us.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

That Spring Feeling

Melva's Mild Unknown Chilli
Melva's Mild Unknown Chilli
Saturday - Here are Melva’s very mild Chilli that have been growing in pots in our lounge through the winter ready for planting out. We don't know what kind. Let us know if you do. The next photo is of the fruit.

Freesias, peach trees, Kowhai, Clematis, karo are all blooming. Melva is working in the garden on this beautiful sunny day so that we and our visitors have fresh home grown through the summer and beyond.

Fantail is collecting nesting material from the Wheki and the Hawk is calling from way up high.


Sunday - This morning we went down to Rauhomaumau beach and collected kelp to lay under the potatoes when they are planted.


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Our Winter Holiday in the North Island

On Saturday just passed we returned from a wonderful two week holiday.
Friends, Linda and Jim, lent us their camper van and away we went. 1000Km later we visited and had fun at the following places:

First stop, Coromandel to visit and ride on Artist Barry Brickell's Driving Creek Railway. This is an absolute must do. Barry's interesting terracotta pottery is displayed in the railway retaining brick works. The railway is also an engineering feat. Barry Brickall is New Zealands most well known terracotta potter.

Next to Port Jackson and Fletcher's bay at the Northern end of the
Coromandel Peninsular where we walked the track to other bays and built an inukshuk.


Port Jackson

Waikawau beach

On the way to our next stop for two nights we checked out Waikawau Bay and The DOC Camp where we used to camp more than 35 years ago. Beautiful empty beach. Then on to a cabin in the bush at The Colville Farm Park where we viewed waterfalls and walked up streams in the bush and a track to the top of the range where we could view the Hauraki Gulf and the East Coast.

From Colville we stopped near Coromandel and climbed Castle Rock for its spectacular cliffy views and bush walk before driving on to the Kauaeranga Valley near Thames for the night. Not enough time to take some of the wonderful walks there.

The following day saw us in the Karangahake Gorge walking part of the Rail Trail there. This is a very interesting and scenic walk along an old gold mining railway and through mining tunnels. Also popular with trail bikes.


Blue fungi
That night we stopped at a friends place in Te Aroha for two nights. In between we walked,climbed the 952m Mt Te Aroha and soaked in the hot pools in the Te Aroha Domain to recover from all our bush walking and climbing. Mt Te Aroha is a fantastic walk. Much of it is through Old Growth Tawa, Beech and Rimu forest. At 900m it becomes a mossy wonderland. At the summit a while enjoying a coffee from our thermos a Tomtit joined us. We often had their company on the track on the North Eastern side.

The next day we climbed the track to the top of the highest waterfall in the North Island. The Wairere Falls at 153m. This is a lovely bush walk with a great view of the Hauraki Plains from the top. After that we needed another hot soak in a pool so stayed at the nearby Opal Hot Pools.

Off to the Waitakaruru Arboretum
 for a stroll around this replanted quarry and its artworks before heading for Te Awamutu to visit Paul Wright, my primary school teacher where we stayed the night before visiting the 55m Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan. As you will see by the photo they are true to name.
Bridal Veil Falls


That night saw us in Raglan and staying with Phillip and Joyce Sweetman. Relations of Melva, before heading to Waingaro hot springs for another long hot soak.

From there we took the Waikeretu road through cliffy limestone country to Port Waikato for a 6Km beach and sand dune walk to the Waikato River outlet.

 Nearly home but not before stopping at Buckland to stay with our good friends Kevin and Sandra Lim for a big catchup.

To summarise, this holiday hi-lighted that New Zealand has fantastic scenery and interesting things to do all over the country at any time of the year. One does not need to wait for summer to enjoy our beautiful place.