Fantails and waves

In a very long list of new experiences, I never thought about composting before I moved here. In Kansas, it was just part of the trash that magically disappeared from the curb every week. Not any more. Since we have such a large garden and since things like fertilizer and plant food are expensive here [because it's all imported, with the exceptions of fruit, dairy products, and some clothing lines], we now make out own compost for the garden, and I must say that it does an excellent job! The composting barrels sit behind the garage and, in the summer, get a good workout. Since it's winter, there isn't much to compost except food scraps. This, of course, attracts bugs--but the news isn't all bad, kids--the bugs attract fantail birds. It looks like a pair of them have decided to claim our bright, ugly, yellow compost barrels as their own gourmet food dispenser! They are very fast moving and rather elusive for the camera, but with some patience [and the 'continuous' button], I managed to snap a few last week.

The are so awesome to watch flitter and bob around! And they're not particularly afraid of people.

It's officially winter here [I think--it feels like it, anyway] and the weather makes for amazing waves on the ocean. There are slight reminders of last week's coastal storms still pushing the waves a bit high and we took a trip to the beach so I could photograph them. So, as the kids occupied themselves with rocks and shells at low tide, Kev and I took most of 500 pictures in less than an hour of the waves . Boy, it was fun to be that close to such angry-looking water. Here's a sample. I will have more up on the picassa site later.

I don't think I will ever take the ocean for granted. It's beauty astounds me every time I see it!


It's not all bad, honest...

Before I go on about the flora, I must admit that I never went out of my way to notice the flowers that grew in the states, so it's all new to me.

I can't remember palm trees anywhere I lived, but there are several types here that are common. There is an actual, full palm tree [I have no idea which type] two doors down and we have 2 ponga trees [scrawny looking palms] in our garden. Also, there are lots of ferns all over the place that look like palm leaves. The silver fern--known by the silver underside of the fronds--is one of the unofficial symbols of New Zealand. [I believe there are NO official symbols for the country at all--just items associated with NZ.]

Across the street is a tributary of some sort and the area around it is wild. There are holly trees about 12 feet tall; some sort of conifer, I think, that reminds me of an asparagus fern; honeysuckle and wild jasmine that smell delicious in the summer; and many other plants, shrubs and trees that I don't recognize [except the pongas!].

Norfolk pines dot the horizon and coastline of the country at up to 30 feet tall. They look cool peeking over the tops of other trees.

In our garden, there's a bush that I have no inkling of it's name [ok, there are lots of them, since gardening is a new thing to all of us, but I have one in mind at the moment]. When you shake the colorful leaves, it sounds like paper rustling. I just call it the paper bush. : )

Then there are the daphnes bushes that smell wonderful when in bloom and the bottle-brush bushes that bees love. Hydrangeas, azaleas, pansies, dahlias, naked ladies, daffodils and begonias in a variety of colors are very abundant.

Rhododendrons and camillas grow vigorously in the spring in just about any color you can imagine. There are area festivals where gardens are listed and you can visit the ones you prefer. We have done some travelling to find a few of the gardens, but they were worth the effort. Some are just magnificent.

There is a type of jasmine in a stone planter on the back patio that is in bloom year round so far. It is absolutely huge and only dies down momentarily when a male adult of the household who shall remain nameless decides to give it a haircut.

Ericas are one of my favorite plants. They are full of tiny, delicate blooms around town in the summer. Some are white, some are pink, some are purple. All catch my eye.

I'm sure I have missed some of the great things here to pass on to you, so if you click the title to this post, you can see some of my favorite flowery stuff.

BTW, did I mention that it doesn't snow in Stratford? ; )

It's not all bad

I know that my posts til now have been concentrated on the things that are different and frustrating for me since my move here almost 2 years ago. Sure, it's no fun when you can't find that 'something' that you are hungry for or the 'things' that you can get for a dollar in the states but are nowhere to be found here, but there truly are also many new things that are wonderful and beautiful and scrumptous.

You can click the title of this post to view some of my favorite scenery.

There are rainbows in the sky quite a lot. I just came in from a walk and saw one because it's misting a bit. I quit taking pictures of them because they are so common--but that doesn't mean they don't still take my breath away. And the kids think I'm crazy for being amazed at the cloud formations. I don't recall seeing three distinct and totally different layers of clouds in Kansas skies or Georgia skies for that matter. I am sure that being so close to Mt. Taranaki has an extreme impact on all weather facets and am continually amazed by it all.

I know you can find kiwi fruit and star fruit in the grocery stores, but they are nothing at all like a feijoa. I have no references to describe it to you because it's so unique. It's an oval, like a kiwi fruit, and you can bite the top off and just suck the pulp out [that's how the kids eat kiwis sometimes] and it's sweet and juicy and I hope you get the chance to sample one some day!

And nashi pears... They are shaped like an apple, have peel like a pear with pulp that is a combination of apple/pear and are always so juicy that it runs down your arms if you're not careful!

There are no large predators or snakes here. All mammals were introduced species [yes, probably including 'native' maori], so the biggest danger in walkabouts in the bush are small fantail birds flying close to get the bugs that your presence disturbs!

One of the best parts of the weather is---there's no snow! OK, it did actually snow in Stratford about 12 years ago, but I can live with snow every 12 years!

The wax-eye birds are tiny and very cool looking with the ring around their eyes. And tuis are elusive. They love kowhai [ko-fi] blooms, so I get to watch them out the bedroom window as they suck nectar from the yellow kowhai blooms and listen to them as they mimic other sounds, so we often hear them repeating noises from the ducks.

Possums here [different than US possums] are also night creatures and they sometimes sound like a woman screaming for help. There are some in our area, so I hear them occasionally before drifting off to sleep--probably as they encounter Bubba, our cat.

And, did I mention it doesn't snow here?!