Several months ago, I took several of the children to the library. One book they picked out was about birds, and the three youngest enjoyed acting it out. Mr. Imagination is reading the book while his two little sisters do the actions. This video clip is rather blurry and shaky, but there are enough cute parts that I thought Grandma might enjoy it.
Miss Joy loves books. At this point, she likes to read them aloud almost as much as she likes to have them read to her! In the last two days we’ve gotten a few videos of her reading. Enjoy!
Though we didn’t want to go exploring every day, we decided to do some walking our first day in Karamea. We drove to the Opararo Basin, about a half hour’s drive north and then east of Karamea, and went all the way to the end of the one-lane dirt road. What a beautiful drive! I didn’t get many pictures of it because the road was rough enough that I was being bounced up and down so much that most of the ones I tried for ended up being blurry. Trust me, the terrain and the plant life were both amazing! The first two pictures give you just a tiny glimpse of what we were enjoying.
These fruits were ripe everywhere, and Simon was curious to know what they were, so he wanted me to take a picture. We’re still not quite sure what they are!
This was the entrance to the two caves. We were very disappointed not to be able to go into Crazy Paving Cave, since the entrance was locked up by DOC, but we walked on through here to Box Canyon Cave.
This is the entrance to Box Canyon Cave. No tour guides–just go in by yourself!
Yes, that’s Simon, with one usable arm, exploring the cave!
Miss Joy “read” the sign about the cave’s closure to her daddy, after I explained it to her.
As usual, I love the way the garden looks right now. January is such a wonderful time in the garden! Everything is at its peak of beauty, and the weeds haven’t taken over yet. I took a few minutes the other day to make a video tour. It was interesting watching it this afternoon. The little lettuces in the last minute have doubled in size since I took the video two days ago! And, it’s raining today, with more predicted tomorrow, so things should grow even more. (I also noticed that two of the cats managed to get themselves into the last couple of minutes!)
As we often do, we went to the beach for Christmas Day. Since Christmas was on Sunday this year, we went to church in the morning, and then left soon after the meeting. We headed north along the coast from Greymouth towards Punakaiki, and stopped at the Strongman Mine Memorial to eat our picnic lunch. Of course, Elijah being Elijah, he had to climb the memorial while we were reading it.
After lunch, we drove on north. Because the sea was so calm, we decided not to bother stopping at Pancake Rocks, so we went to the Truman Track, just north of Punakaiki, instead. I took this video of the walk down to the sea, and the fun we had there.
I wanted a new family photo, so we stopped along the trail, before everyone got spread out, to take one. I got this picture while we were trying to figure out where the best lighting would be.
I took this one on the way down, too, since I wanted individual photos. This one didn’t make the cut; we ended up getting all the good ones with Esther’s camera.
It’s kind of a tradition to bury someone at the beach. James had great fun building a dike around himself, but was disgusted when the sea came around the ends!
After we played at the sea here for awhile, we got back into the vehicles and went farther north yet, to Charleston. There, the boys all went swimming and kayaking in Constant Bay, while the rest of us explored the sandy beach.
Use your imagination here! The beach was full of sparkles, as if someone had dumped glitter all over. I tried to get a picture of it, and almost succeeded. There is a drift of glitter through the center of this picture. The water was full of it, too. I think it’s mica.
This bluebottle jellyfish (actually, not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, but often called a jelly) washed up while we were there. The boys had seen it floating in the water just before we found it. We wanted to see the tentacles hanging down, and knew it would die anyway, so we brought it home in a container of seawater. That’s Esther’s hand for scale.
We stayed at that beach for an hour or more, and then went a little farther north, past the mouth of the Nile River, and explored a section of beach with lots of life in the cracks between rocks. There were a lot of these crabs, watching us and trying to get farther back in their safe hiding spots.
There were bluebottles everywhere. Most were washed up and drying out on the sand, but this one was still floating.
When we got home, we put the bluebottle in a preserving jar, and sure enough, the tentacles stretched out. It started feeding, moving its tentacles up and down–see the video at the bottom. It also turned its float up and down, and pulled itself into a horseshoe shape, and then stretched out again. Fascinating! By morning, the tentacles had died and by Monday evening they had completely disintegrated, turning the water blue.
Somehow, I ended up with a lot of pictures of animals this month.
One of the boys borrowed my camera to take pictures of the cattle to share with his cousin. This is the two milk cows. Bluebell is on the left, and her mother Poppy on the right.
The young stock were on top of the hill that day. The two biggest ones are steers, and the two smaller ones are heifers. The Jersey heifer is Poppy’s calf from this year, Rosie. The other is a beefy that Simon brought us from the farm on which he worked. We assumed it was a bull, and gave it a masculine name…until Gayle and Elijah went across the road to castrate it two months later. That’s when we realized that no one had ever looked to see what gender it was! We changed her name.
The calves. Rosie and Ramona are best friends.
These cats are not best friends, but they do end up sleeping in close proximity sometimes, when conditions are right! This is my miniature greenhouse. It was getting too hot to start plants in it, so I left it propped up. Now, I have a frame covered in shade cloth, in the same place, to start the summer’s crops.
This cheeky weka lives in our garden. It scratches the mulch away from the plants and eats the tomatoes.
The flax in front of the house are in bloom, and we often see a tui drinking from them.
I was hanging laundry one morning, and one of the tuis serenaded me from a nearby tree. It went on long enough that I was able to get a video of it!
One day, the boys took Mom on an adventure. At one farm, they saw this family of pigs.
At another farm, they saw these deer.
Someone was moving an old wool underlay one day, and discovered a bumblebee nest inside. We had never seen such a thing! Thankfully, no one got stung.
A few weeks ago, Simon and Elijah decided to take a three-day tramp in the mountains. Simon was between jobs, and Elijah had cut his hand and had a week off work, so they took off. Elijah took a lot of pictures with his phone, and shared them with me. Here is Simon, taking off up a river valley.
This picture needs a bit of explanation! The two of them had a thing going where they left their fingerprints on each trail marker. They figured that, if they got lost, someone could come along and dust all the trail markers to see where they had been!
That is the Top Trent Hut ahead. It was their goal for the first night; they had lunch at Elizabeth Hut.
This was the lunch stop on the second day.
Their second night out was spent at this hut, the Tutaekuri Hut. A French fly-fisherman joined them there for the night. They walked out from this point and arrived home early in the afternoon.
Here are some video clips Elijah took. They’ll give you a better idea of the terrain.
Simon has started a new job, since his time at the dairy farm came to an end. He is now picking moss. I don’t know where else in the world sphagnum moss is harvested, but the West Coast of New Zealand supplies a large share of the world’s supply. This moss grows wild in the swamps here, and harvesting it is a big business. Simon is going along with a man who has been doing it most of his life and loves the work, learning from him. He came home from work one day last week and told me they would be doing a “fly-out” the next day, and we should come to watch. I had planned to stay home and get some work done here, and do some school, but I decided we would have a field trip, instead. Sadly, we arrived just too late to see the bags flown out, but we learned a lot about the rest of the process! Another time maybe we’ll get to see that part.
This is a patch of moss in front of Simon’s boot. This is a thin spot, not worth harvesting, but because it was raining we didn’t want to go much farther. Anyway, he said that the mud gets pretty deep the farther you go into the swamp, and we didn’t want to get that dirty! They have to cut the gorse out, and then they use pitchforks to pick up the moss, cleaning mud and sticks out of each forkful before putting it into the bag.
These wool bags are filled with 200 kg of moss. Two are filled side by side, and when they have enough to fill a truck with 72 bags, they call in a helicopter to lift them out. The helicopter can lift two at once. Simon said that at first it was a 40-second turnaround between dropping off one set of bags and the next, and by the end it was 50 seconds, since the helicopter had to go a little farther.
Close-up of some of the moss.
The moss is trucked to the sheds. These are long, low buildings with clear roofs and lots of ventilation. The moss is spread out on these tables, made of bird netting fastened to frames, to dry.
After it has dried some, the moss is put through the kiln. This used to be a tobacco kiln, but is now used solely for moss. After the moss has dried enough here, it is sorted again to get out any more stuff you don’t want in your hanging baskets, and baled in an old wool press. The original 200 kg now weighs 11 kg.
Simon took a video with his phone of part of the fly-out. He told me that a lot of static electricity builds up in the cable. He unhooked the bags that were loaded onto a smaller truck, and said that he got shocked with every set of bags!
Elijah bought a Surf a few weeks ago, and badly wanted to try it out on a four wheel drive trip. He organized one on Labour Day, and a lot of friends came along. I stayed home, but Gayle took all the younger children–neither of the girls wanted to be left behind! Gayle, Elijah and James all took photos and let me use them. In this first picture, they were approaching the farm through which you gain access to the track.
Off on the trail! James took most of the pictures; he rode in a friend’s Land Rover, between Elijah’s Surf and Simon’s Safari, which another friend was driving.
The line of vehicles, taking a break.
The cemetery at Napoleon. About 100-150 years ago, this was a thriving mining town–today there are hardly any traces of it!
They drove through a couple of tunnels.
One boy rode his family’s quad bike. Partway through, it started having trouble, and they discovered that the battery was about to burst into flame! One family was driving a ute, and they were able to push the bike onto it to get it home.
I patched together several video clips from Gayle’s and Elijah’s phones and James’s camera. The last two clips, of the Surf going through a creek, are from a one-vehicle trip a few days later. This is the creek where we stopped on Christmas Day, thinking a vehicle couldn’t get through.
This week, we celebrated 25 years of marriage. Looking back, it sure doesn’t feel like it seems that a quarter of a century should feel, but the calendar (and our 24-year-old daughter) prove that it has been that long. We decided we should do something to celebrate, and Esther offered to take care of the younger children for us, so we went away for one night. Esther only had two nights at home, and I wanted to spend a little time with her, so we kept this short. It was special, though! It was the first time we went away overnight without a baby along. We went to Charleston, on the coast just south of Westport, and found a motor camp where we rented a cabin for the night. (I can highly recommend the Charleston Motor Camp, by the way. It’s old and basic, but very clean and has everything you need.) After we settled in, we walked down to the beach, and then drove to another beach. As we were walking, we saw this family of ducks.
This was the first thing we saw when we reached the sea. This is Constant Bay, and there were some pretty impressive waves pounding in through that narrow opening! We walked around to the right, after admiring this for a few minutes.
This is Joyce Bay, on the other side of a tongue of land.
Next, we drove north a few kilometers to the Nile River, and out to the mouth. I thought it was fun to visit the Nile!
We ate a picnic here in this spot, beside a cold fire, and watched the sun sinking toward the rocks in the distance.
After we ate, we walked up the beach a little, to where we could see the sun set into the water. It was such a beautiful spot!
These little blue things, about 3 inches long, rather startled us. At first, I thought they were plastic toys, or balloons, or something, but we soon realized they were sea creatures. What really startled us was when we started seeing some of them moving! Watch the video, and the last clip shows one of them moving a little. These turned out to be blue bottle jelly fish, and according to an article I found online after we got home, they are actually four organisms in one. One is the float, one is the tentacles, and two others handle digestion and reproduction. They look fragile, but I stepped on the first one we found to try to see what it was, and it would not pop. It was very tough. They were all over the beach! We were glad, later, that we didn’t touch them, because they sting.
We sat on a log and watched the sun set. Such a special evening!
Next, I’ll share the rest of the pictures we took while we were away.