“Spring is nature’s way of saying “Let’s party!”” – Robin Williams
I keep reminding myself that it’s still very early and that there’s still a good chance that we’ll be seeing more frosts and more snow…but it’s really beginning to feel like spring out there! The birds are singing away, buds are starting to pop open here and there, the grass is greener, and the days are getting longer and longer. It’s a much more subtle transition than the coming of spring back in Ontario. There’s no snow to melt – the ground was only covered in snow for a couple of weeks of the winter. But changes are definitely happening and that sense of excitement is palpable.
After our wonderful Community Day earlier this month, we had another great volunteer, Graham, join us for a few days. We’re very lucky to be in a place that attracts such interesting and enthusiastic people. Despite having a good bit of rain over those few days, Graham helped us with all sorts of things – including some tree planting! We were given several little trees that were, for the most part, unidentified and were really looking like they wanted to get in the ground. Luckily, we have a section of fenced-in garden on one part of the property and so we thought that this would make a good temporary home for the trees as they get strong and reveal their identities to us so that we can better place them in more permanent homes a bit further down the track.
Graham also spent one evening teaching us some techniques for making rope from cabbage tree leaves. I was amazed at how the fibres twisted together to become something quite strong. It got us thinking again about the seemingly endless range of uses of plants. As we get the design of the land together and consider the sorts of species we’ll be planting here, we’re thinking about which will best for providing shelter, food, medicine, fibre, beauty, flowers for bees, homes for birds…and the list goes on. There’s so much to learn!
Some very exciting news is that Andy became an uncle for the first time on August 8th. His beautiful little niece, Lily, is in Brisbane and so we’ve planned a trip over for November to meet her (and probably to do some farm touring as well…when in Rome!). Besides my hours in the Sydney airport, it’ll be my first trip to Australia and definitely something to look forward to.
A couple of weeks ago, Andy and I attended the seminars and AGM of Organic Farm NZ – a national organization that promotes organics as well as providing a peer-reviewed certification system. There were some very good speakers in the seminars, a tour of the Organic College at Lincoln University, and a tour of the forest garden of Bob Crowder – an organics guru in Christchurch. In addition to some very interesting seminars (on growing new potatoes, psyllid control, the history of organics in Canterbury, etc.) the weekend also gave us a chance to chat with some of the movers and shakers in the Canterbury organics movement. And the food was very good!
Back at Toi Toi Manawa, we held the first in our emerging series of workshops last Sunday – this one on Swedish Massage. We had ten people here for the entire day and learned some basic massage theory and techniques from Gorden Hamblyn, a professional massage therapist who generously volunteered to come and spend the time with us. It was a lot of fun, really educational, and VERY relaxing!
I’ve had a few good opportunities to be out and about in the community this week. I discovered that there is a Tai Chi class offered at the little community hall in Glentunnel on Monday mornings. Tim and I went along to that this week, had a great time and met some really lovely ladies (Tim represented 100% of the male attendance). Then on Wednesday, Andy, Dom and I went for the first time to a line dancing class held at the community hall in Glenroy (lots of Glens around here!). The line dancing was a blast and brought me right back to Mrs. Morris’s Grade 9 Phys Ed class…my other line dancing experience. Both the Tai Chi and the line dancing (while VERY different from one another) were great ways to mix up the week a little bit and meet some new local folks. To top it off, last night we attended the Whitecliffs township meeting. These happen on a monthly basis but this is the first time we’ve been able to make it out. One of the main items for discussion was the revised plan for the Whitecliffs Domain – a popular recreation area and campground here in Whitecliffs that attracts many summertime campers from around Canterbury. It was good to be able to sit in on the meeting, learn what some of the issues are in the village, and begin to be more involved as residents.
This weekend we’re off to Lyttelton! We’re going to a show tonight – the Lyttelton Rough House Revival Tour – which is very exciting. First, because it looks like it’ll be a really good show and we’re going with some great people. But also because our experience of “night life” in the city has been virtually non-existent. We’ll be staying over in Lyttelton and spending the weekend enjoying some of the sights and sounds of the Habour Basin.
High on the agenda for next week is finishing our little propagation house. Tim and Andy have made a very good start on it and it should been all finished in time for our first planned seeding at the end of next week. I’ve got all of our veggie seeds together now (I think!) and have been working at wrapping my head around timelines for seeding in trays, transplanting, direct seeding, etc. It’s going to be very interesting to compare my estimates to what happens in reality! This season will be a very good chance for Andy and I to really start to understand some of the differences in growing in this climate compared to what we’ve started to become used to in Canada.
Next weekend, we’re looking forward to hosting a group from the New Zealand Parkour Association who will be holding instructor training here. In return for the use of the space, they’ll be giving us a much appreciated hand in the garden. Hooray!
So that’s the update from here in the blue skies and green grasses of Whitecliffs. I’ll leave you with a few more photos from the last few weeks. And, with any luck, the next time I write the first veggie seeds will be germinating happily in their trays!