Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Small Detour into My Past . . .

On the road they call `the Forgotten Highway` which winds its way alongside the Wanganui river from Taumarunui, there is Herlihy`s bluff to negotiate. In the 45 years ( yes . . .45yrs !) since I drove over this now tar-sealed road, there have been afew changes, one being the shifting of the road itself, to a lower level cut out of the cliff side after a person was killed by falling boulders. It has never been a safe place to dally, even with the magnificent views of the river on the other side of the road ! 
The first major change I found on the journey into my past was. . MY BRIDGE HAD GONE !! Far out, I couldn`t believe what I was seeing. Where was the wonderful old wooden Te Maire bridge that you could walk over as well as drive across the rattly boards ?? All I could see was this concrete 2-way eye-sore,(so sad to find the big old end bits sitting amongst the bush on either side) - no character at all, built 8yrs after we left the district. Oh well I thought, nothing else can get any worse  . .  how wrong was I .
Metal, windy valley road, bush-lined for most of the way - old Kahikatea, Totara and Rimu dripping in lichen - cool, a million hues of green - NZ bush I remember. This part was thankfully the same, right down to the tree ferns and sound of Tui. . .
On past the bee hives and angry looking bull, around very tight corners, remembering when my mother, in the family tank (Vanguard car) rounded such corner to collide head on with a horse !! There really isn`t anywhere to pull over, you just have to be extremely good at maneuvering in tiny spaces . . . At the end of the road is the farm `Patunga` where I spent the first 12 formidable yrs of my life - a large sheep and cattle station. Slowly around the last corner I crept, dust flying up behind me, expecting to catch a glimpse of the 102yr old homestead and . . . . . no orchard or hillside, just a newly built add-on glaring down at me - I swear I nearly drove off the road !! Whaaaaat is this ? where are the big old 100yr trees, the walnut with swing, the ponga summer house, the fantastic old veranda, the gardens my mother always had looking so pretty, I drove into the driveway and again . . where is the tall shubbery that we played in - the old cattle-stop was still there, but the house looked so unlike it was in my memory that I cried. No one was home, which was a good thing really, as I must have looked a sight - a crying crazy lady . . .

Feeling sad and emotional, I drove back down the valley road, across the ugly bridge, up past my old school site which is on the farm that once belonged to good friends, whose children I had spent many happy days with, ( one of the sons, Ross, married my cousin), the school closed down many years ago with the building being used as a haybarn, thats another crying story that I won`t get into yet !! Across the road from the school stands the Te Whakarae Hall, once the pride and joy of this  spread-out farming community, the scene of many country dances ( I can still see my parents getting dressed up in their best clothes, my mother with her bright lipstick, sparkly necklace and swirling dress ( it is the 50`s remember), my handsome Dad in strides and sports jacket), the men in one corner with the beer, the women around the kitchen end, fern leaves decorating the walls and powder on the wooden floor for dancing. This hall was used for meetings, Womens Division days, sports events, especially badminton tournaments, plus any school function was held there - now it is derelict and abandoned. . .  I know times have changed, life has moved on from those long summer days, but you know, I do wonder if it is always for the best, there was such a sense of belonging .. it did tug on my heart strings.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tears for Christchurch - all NZ weeps . . .

All New Zealand weeps for our beautiful city Christchurch and her people. . .

A second major earthquake in 6 months has devastated the central part of the city with damage also across the city and surrounding areas. With the time of day ( 1.00pm) yesterday, and the fact that there was already damage from the Sept quake, many deaths and injuries have occurred. People are still trapped under huge piles of rubble, many buildings collapsed, it looks like a war zone you would see on tv in another place, not our peaceful, stunningly beautiful country. . .

There has been an out-pouring of grief, most of us either have family and friends living in CHCH or know someone who has, it is very hard for us as a people to get our heads around a disaster of this magnitude, we have has so few over the time of settlement. Godszone, that is what we have always been called  - safe and secure . . our world has been rocked and will never be the same again ..

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I love Trees

Isn`t she beautiful ? This old cherry tree grows in Memorial Park along side the Waikato river which runs through my city. She is literally being held together with leather straps and a post ! With giant cracks and bora holes in the stumps, this old tree still manages to put on a stunning display of blossom in the spring and a leafy canopy over summer. 
Held together with a large band and metal clip sort of thingie - this and the post is holding the tree together and from the branches hitting the ground.
It took me awhile to find this tag, but I am glad I did and very pleased to see my old tree protected - Hamilton does not have a good record when it comes to protecting trees . . . I have known of many 100yr old and older trees that have been cut down by developers, really sad as we don`t have that many old trees, they were planted by the Hamilton Beautification Society in the late 1800 early 1900`s, these are mainly exotics - lots of Elms, Oaks and other English species were grown and planted.
Even with a long crack in the branch the old tree still manages to grow new wood each year, bloom beautifully and contribute to our breathing with her leaves - trees are the earth`s lungs . .

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pressings . . .

One of my most loved past times is collecting, drying, pressing and mounting plant samples. I started my own herbarium ( collection of dried flora) 10 years ago when I went back to study, for part of my horticultural course I had to collect 100 different species of trees, shrubs, natives, annuals and bulbs, identify them correctly, dry and press them and write the corect infomation, including their latin names ! I found a passion I never knew I had, since then I have continued to add to my herbarium which has come in very handy a number of times when I needed to identify a plant.
I find some of the pressings are so beautiful I want to frame them so I can enjoy them all the time ! 
Pansy flowers are so easy to press - pick up a book out of my library and you more then likely will have a pansy or two drop into your lap, all dried softly crinkled and smelling faintly of the garden - summer memories ..  
Even seed heads from common little garden plants look amazing - their beauty lasts for such a long time, especially if the herbarium is kept in a dry airy place, don`t ever get it damp as some plants can mildue very quickly.
I use tiny daps of a clear craft glue to attach the plant material to the acid-free paper once I make certain all of the plant is completely pressed, laying the plant on the paper in a natural position. If the leaves are to long or wide cut them straight along the edge of the paper. Another thing to look for is the different undersides of leaves, turn one over to display. 
The job I would give my back teeth for is to work in a famous herbarium like Kew Gardens in the UK or maybe at the museum in Auckland here in NZ - anywhere there is a pile of dried, dusty old plants . .