Skip to content

A visit to Orokonui Sanctuary

July 13, 2015

After a long break from blogging, and pressure from my 8-year-old son, who has his own blog, I am finally posting again! In Dunedin this week, down from New Plymouth, for the school holidays and just had a lovely walk at Orokonui Sanctuary. The highlight was seeing two Takahe foraging around in the undergrowth, totally unconcerned by the bright pufferjacket-wearing humans gawking at them.

FullSizeRender (1)


Making the most of a cold dreary Invercargill day

April 29, 2012

It seems there are not a lot of options of things to do on a grey drizzly day in Invercargill. Or maybe it’s just that it’s hard to get motivated to do stuff outside. I would be quite happy to sit inside and read my book, while the children make huts or play with lego.

But my partner, as usual, had other ideas. He borrowed a Fun Yak from a colleague at work. I had never heard of one until he brought it home. It’s a blow-up kayak, with two blow-up seats in it, which can easily seat one adult and two children. It comes with two child-sized paddles. So after pumping up the various compartments we put it on the roof and took it down to the Oreti River.



Harrison was very taken with it and paddled out with his Dad. Then Sylvia had a go. Then I had a go with the children. The only problem was that it wasn’t sitting very straight in the water. It was kind of lopsided. We pumped it up some more and it seemed to be a bit better after that. No-one tipped out at least. After a bit of practice we could paddle in a straight line and with two adults we could make it go quite fast.

I’m undecided about the Fun Yak. I think a real two-seater kayak or Canadian canoe would be a lot stronger and safer, and I’m not sure I’d be comfortable taking it down a river – though obviously it is easier to transport when deflated. However, it was great for a try out and it was a good way to brighten up a cold dreary Saturday afternoon.

I am gatherer – hear me roar!

April 5, 2012

Blackberry jellySorry to go on about blackberry picking, but I’m obviously addicted to it. I came across the best blackberry patch ever yesterday. It was so exciting – only for the blackberry picking connosieur I guess.

I had gone for a run and decided to check out this patch (can’t tell you where but they are not too hard to find in Southland), which last year had only a few measly blackberries on it. Well, this time it was  loaded with the biggest plumpest ripe blackberries ever. I think it had something to do with the beehives nearby.

I went to work, though was a bit hamstrung as I had no containers in the car, just a small plastic bag, which I had to keep refilling and emptying the blackberries out on to an old top, now stained forever. There were branches loaded with ripe berries, so I barely scratched the surface with my picking.

I got 1.5kg of the finest looking and tasting blackberries, plus added a few apples and made blackberry jelly. You have to strain the berries through a cloth, which turned a very satisfying deep pink/magenta – be great for dying fabric.

Oh, the satisfying life of the wild gatherer.

Blackberries make a great dye

How much outdoor activity with children is too much?

April 2, 2012

I quite like this blog post I read today about “slow parenting”, while raising active kids. Some good advice to heed, you don’t always have to be planning big outdoor trips to do with kids, although it is nice to do one every now and then.

On the other hand, I saw this the other day and was in awe of what this mother, Trish Ellis Herr and her two children have achieved, climbing 48 of New Hampshire’s highest peaks with her two girls, now 6 and 9 (she has written a book called Up:  A mother and daughter’s peak bagging adventure). Though some people would find that ludicrous, I think it is fine so long as the children are enjoying it, and otherwise it would be pretty hard to push your children up that many mountains unless they did want to do it themselves.

It is actually surprising how far children can walk when they get used to it. My children enjoy walking now, and 3-year-old Sylvia did an easy 40 minute walk at Sandy Point yesterday, though it certainly helped that there were a bunch of other children to keep her interested and helped her forget when she got tired.

bush walkers

Gathering time of year -blackberries, rosehips, apples

March 26, 2012

It’s a great time of year for gathering and harvesting and we’ve been making the most of it in the last few weeks. There is nothing quite like that smug feeling of getting something great for free. We’ve been on several blackberry picking jaunts, which has resulted in delicious blackberry pie and blackberry jelly. Hopefully I’m not putting my children off – I asked if they wanted to go blackberry picking again, and they both loudly said no, because of “too many prickles”. At least the rain didn’t bother them.

On a recent trip to Queenstown I stocked up on rosehips, which I’ve made rosehip syrup with, though you’ve got to be careful picking them. I was still picking out prickles from my fingers days later.

prickly rosehips

Also we stopped by a roadside apple tree and got some apples on the way home. Disappointing that a tree we got apples from last year, totally laden with apples, was bare. Not sure if others had got there before us or else the season was a bit different and we’d left it too late.

roadside apples

At home my garden is looking a little sad but still getting a good crop of potatoes, silverbeet and fennel.

Doing the Dusky Track

March 20, 2012

Looking fresh at the start

We had sun, rain, floods, sandflies, an earthquake, mud and more mud. The Dusky Track delivered true to Fiordland form – such a cliche to say it was full of extremes, but it was. Probably one of the hardest tramps I’ve done due to the conditions and length of days.

Last Monday Gemma and I set off in the rain, having almost not made it to the start of the track at the top of Lake Hauroko because of boat troubles. However, we were rescued by two good samaritans from Waimahaka (Brian and Bev) who graciously gave us a ride.

Our first day was the shortest walk, as we’d not set off till 1.30pm and decided to stop at Halfway Hut after 4 hours. In our aim to complete it in 5 days (normally done in 7) and get back to family and other commitments, every other day  was mostly 8 or 9 hours of tramping.

From Pleasant Range

Highlights included:

  • Going over Pleasant Range, past Lake Horizon, on day two with glorious weather and views into Dusky Sound and the surrounding mountains
  • Dumping our packs the next day and doing a day trip to Supper Cover, walking across the mudflats and then back to the hut
  • Our adventure getting to Kintail Hut on day 4, after heavy rain flooded the Seaforth River and the track with it. We had to swim a section and bush-bash above the valley floor for several hours to get away from the flood. I was awe-struck by the raging torrents of water everywhere, from the main river to the tributaries and overflowing swamps.
  • Being woken by an earthquake after midnight, which shook Kintail Hut and which we later found was a 5.2 Fiordland centred earthquake
  • Waking early and walking in the dark on the last morning -hearing kiwi calls- and watching the sun come up as we headed up the steep bush to Centre Pass.
  • Having a great companion

Here’s a few photos:

Waiting to cross flooded trib

Gemma on one of the numerous swingbridges



The pleasures of gardening

February 21, 2012

Enough of the courgettes

I’ve been loving my vegie garden this summer. It’s been a great growing season here with lots of dry warm weather but also bouts of rain. I never thought I’d ever be a committed gardener but it is an intensely pleasurable activity to see plants you’ve planted grow and then that smug satisfaction you get later when you can cook and eat them.

I try and grow new things that I’ve never tried, like fennel and turnips this year, as well as the reliable, such as courgettes and carrots. I’ve also grown kale (a bumper crop and have been searching for recipes to use it, kale and onion pizza was a winner even though it sounds dodgy), red onions, shallots, broad beans, cabbage, cauliflower, bok-choy, rocket, potatoes, beetroot, garlic, spinach, silver-beet, snap peas, celery, lettuce (cos and others), pumpkin (for the first time), tomatoes, cucumber and basil.

carrots, beetroot, shallots, turnips

My strawberries were pretty good for a while, my raspberries were disappointingly bug-eaten and I need more red/black current bushes to make the crop worthwhile for jam, like my neighbours do. Probably went over the top with the courgette/zucinni this year. After making courgette fritters, courgette pickle, courgette dip, courgette bread, courgette salad as well as injecting it into other meals where possible, I am thoroughly sick of it and I have given up trying to make my children eat it.

Sylvia with cauliflower