Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pure Sunshine . . .

Wax comb from my TopBar hive - isn`t it the most beautiful creation ? I kept this out of the hive last summer so I can use it in my talks, plus it gives my house a delicious scent.. In the TB hive the comb is made completely by the bees, no head start with foundation sheets that have the size of the cells just a tiny bit bigger, hopefully breeding a bigger bee = more honey ! The bees know what they are doing, they don`t need mans interference or manipulation, which is one of the reasons I am only keeping my bees in a TopBar hive now. I am encouraging others to do the same ! Check out my new blog, where I will be putting my TB beekeeping news and info on. I am also in the process of starting a NZ based group for people keen on using this type of hive for their bees.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sepia Sat - all about sheep !

My Dad, Thomas Brian Meehan dipping sheep on the farm `Patunga` in the late 1950`s. I can clearly remember him doing this smelly job on hot summer days - pushing the sheep under the thick yellow concoction with a hooked pole. My biggest dread was that I might fall in, as it not only smelt bad, but consisted of sulphur and other nasty chemicals - there is Dad, dressed in shorts, socks and boots, no protection at all, not like today . . .

This photo of moi and pet romney lamb ( can`t recall the name) was taken on a kiwi icon event, Calf Club Day, usually in summer at every country school, ( Te Whakarae, now closed down) in 1950`s and still running. I would have been around 8 or 9 so the year would be early 1960`s. he/she was an obedient lamb by the look of things - leading very nicely ! Growing up on a remote sheep and cattle farm through the 50`s and 60`s was an idyllic life for a child, the tiny country school with 2 rooms and husband and wife teachers never had any more then 20 children, so all classes were in the same room. I will dig out a picture of the school, lots of fond memories. . .

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fruity Flowers. . . .

Two of my favorite quirky fruit flowers, Passionfruit, Passiflora edulis, with beautiful purple tassles and ovaries containing all those seeds ! A native of Brazil, this vine grows really well in NZ, sometimes to well, it can climb and attach with it`s tendrils to just about anything, but the fruit is so worth it - scooped out and piled over icecream, topping on a pavalova - all those kiwi traditions, or just eaten out of the crinkly,purple skin. It is extremely good for you also, has no colestrol, with high amounts of Vitamin A and C, plus potassium. It gets it`s name from Spanish clergymen who thought the flowers resembled religious figures.

I love looking at the intricate flower arrangement, a very inviting landing pad for a bee !

My vine here was only planted last year, has been fairly neglected but has covered the trellis and is searching for more things to cling to ! It is covered in flowers and fruit already - it never ceases to amaze me at how marvelous a miracle it is - from a tiny seed to flower to fruit, all with the help of our honey bees. . . .

A real winter treat in NZ, by the end of the season I am always totaly `feijoa`d out ! Another native plant of South America, Feijoa, Acca sellowiana grows extremely well here. I have 2 small trees which are covered in buds and flowers, the fruit is ready from March onwards and you can`t give them away by June ! Eaten raw, stewed, cakes, muffins, jam, frozen for later - you name it, we do it ! The smell of this fruit is one you never forget, aromatic and strong. My English son-in-law hadn`t seen them before coming here and wasn`t that keen as the fruit is highly scented. This plant makes a great hedge, bees and birds love the flowers (and fruit), another kiwi icon.

Star burst flowers, quite similar at a quick glance to our native Rata and Pohutukawa flowers, they all belong to the same family, Myrtaceae . The thick green leaves with their tomentum covered backs are very much the same as the NZ natives. Great plants to have in a coastal garden as that white c0vering on the leaves protects them from salt spray.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sepia Saturday in Aotearoa . . .

Kia ora fellow sepias` and others, welcome on this spring day to my family. Not an old pic but none the less, a black and white study of my 4 children taken to celebrate my 40th birthday in 1993.
Meg, the eldest dragged her siblings to a friends place to get some shots for Mum ... To make matters worse , she insisted they `look` naked, so bare shoulders it was. Ellena, who was 2yrs old at the time, loved every minute of it, being fussed over by her big sisters and brother. Poor Cameron, he was a tortured 16yr old with a reputation to protect, not into `touchy feely` stuff.

This is one of my favorite photos, Ellena was my late bloom and totally loved by the older ones, in fact, she was a tad spoilt, but thats ok, it didn`t ruin her.

My 2 gorgeous older daughters, Meg, 18 at the time and Pip, 11 yrs - both lovely young women, different as chalk and cheese, wonderful, caring Mothers now - this is one very proud Mum of all 4 - I consider them my biggest achievement - I have been a `single` Mum since Ellena was 3 - who says children from one parent homes miss out, not these ones, I made sure of that !

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Scarecrows in the Vege Garden this week.

A group of scary scarecrows are hanging out in the walled vegetable garden down at the Hamilton Gardens this week. All made by school children and pre-school kidlets, with some families involved also, there was a competition organized by `The Friends of Hamilton Gardens` which saw some very inventive scarecrows ! Below is the line-up of blokes !

Mr and Mrs Bloom were my favorites, colorfully made with old clothes, a mask, pots, all sorts.

I liked this scarecrow also, made from old grape vines, raffia basket, seed pods, all natural bits and pieces. The fact that it is lying on its side added to the `look`.

This is the 3rd year the scarecrow competition has been run in the Gardens, it becomes more successful each year, with quite afew more `figures` adorning the walls this year. People are clever you know, everything used had to be recycled and the creativity was astounding ! The walled garden is the ideal place for these shows, the weather has been perfect - it has certainly brought a smile to the faces of everyone I have seen wandering through the vege patch . . .

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday again - where has the week gone ?? The pics this week are of my maternal Great grand parents, Dorothy ( driving the huge Clydesdale horses) and Arthur Andrews ( see post acouple of weeks ago), my Grand mother, Phylis Gwendoline ( bottom left) and her young brother Marcus, on top of the hay stack on the wagon with his Dad. This photo was taken around 1923 in their orchard at Greenhithe just north of Auckland. It was in the country in those days, now is a suburb of our biggest city Ak.

-The family are getting their winter supply of hay ready to build into stacks - there is a real art in building them to last the winter, I was talking about it with one of my `old darlings` I care for in my 2nd job recently, he is 94 and full of wonderful stories. He told me how the hay stacks were built, if done properly, the stack would stay up and dry inside through all weather , it was all in the angle of the stacking, important not to `over stack` the bundles - very hot and dusty work !
My Gr Grandmother may have been tiny but she could handle those 2 big horses, mind you, most Clydesdale horses I remember were very placid but strong. . .
Happy Sepia Sat from Aotearoa on this sunny day !

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ti Kouka - NZ Icon

Ti Kouka is so photograph-able, it is most probably the plant I have taken hundreds of pics of. This tall, up to 17m New Zealand icon holds a special piece of all our hearts, instantly recognized and now grown in many gardens overseas.

This special emblem of Aotearoa can be found growing throughout the country. Ti Kouka or Cordyline australis is a tall palm-like tree with dark green strappy leaves that blow in the wind like a wild woman`s hair, then drop to the ground becoming the bain of every NZ child`s lawn mowing days as they ( the leaves) have a habit of stopping the mower if run over !
In flower now, the scent is nice, not over-powering but distinctive - when out walking you smell it before you see the tree ! Bees love it, the single Ti in my garden is covered in honey bees every day right through to mid December.

This plant is not a tree, it belongs to the Lomandraceae family, is often called a Tree Lily with its tall trunk, not a woody trunk but one with phloem and xylem, no cambium, a monocot. The leaves are large and long-lived, with many parallel veins and a broad leaf base that wraps around the stem. Ti will grow in most places, often creating a dense forest in swampy areas or to be seen as a lonely figure growing in a paddock, its companions cut down or dead. Called Cabbage Tree by early settlers as the white `heart` of the plant can be cooked and eaten, tastes similar to cabbage apparently. Maori believe that a large early flowering means a long summer ahead. Old Ti are often hollow with one specimen growing up north large enough to house a gum digger, chimney and all !

Ti Kouka has been the subject of many NZ stories and poetry, one of my favorites being `The Wild Bees` by James K Baxter . . .
Often in summer on a tarred bridge plank standing
Or downstream between willows, a safe Ophelia drifting
In a rented boat - I had seen them come and go,
Those wild bees swift as tigers, their gauze wings a-glitter
In passionless industry, clustering black at the crevice
Of a rotten cabbage tree, where their hive was hidden.

Baxter also wrote : I hope they`ll plant me in
The kind of hole they dig for horses
Under a hilltop cabbage tree.

The wonderful `Dancing Leaves - the story of New Zealand`s cabbage tree, ti kouka` by Philip Simpson, is one of my books that I pick up often, a wonderful social and ecological history of this much loved native plant.