Latest Entries »

Action is the antidote to anxiety and despair. One ‘theory’ is that we can change our habits if we stick with it for three weeks. So here’s the challenge, starting with the easiest habits to change, food and waste food. Of course many of you will already be aware of these habits but there are many others who haven’t got around to thinking about climate change, especially whilst we also deal with covid, so this might be a nudge in the right direction.

Mark the boxes of one or more changes you can work on, and tick any boxes that you are already doing. This gives you an idea of how you’re doing. Persevere for 3 weeks then pass the challenge on to someone else. Of course you can repeat with new choices, or move onto the next area. As you move down the challenges, they become more complex and some are costly, so just pick those you feel comfortable to have a try at.

The idea is that if enough of us make small changes, together we can make a big change, this is not a new idea but definitely worth reminding ourselves that we can make a contribution and it may be bigger than we expect.

At the end of each article there are references and links for you to learn more.

FOOD: We all need it, but it is possible to improve the way we shop, so here goes…

  1. Minimise packaging: choose items with less plastic. Recycle soft plastics, check out ‘soft plastic recycling scheme’ to find your closest drop off point.*
  2. Recycle bags: reuse bags from bulk bin purchases, use cloth bags for vegetables etc 
  3. Meat: cut back, even a little bit is a good start. Try cutting back meat portions, or if meat-free meals are a new idea, try to introduce one meat-free recipe each week*
  4. Free range or organic: If you are eating less meat perhaps you can afford to buy free range or organic. Bostocks Chickens work out great value and chickens and fish do not produce methane.*
  5. Fish: Eat only sustainable NZ fish, this seems to be Lemon Fish and Gurnard in Hawkes Bay. Sadly Tuna is not a good choice. It seems that Salmon is ok at this point in time.
  6. Locally produced: Buy as much food that is locally produced and in season, supporting your local community and cutting back on food miles.
  7. Grow your own: if you don’t have a vege garden, even growing some silverbeet or lettuces in a bucket is a good start. Learn how to grow sprouts, alfalfa and moong beans are easy.
  8. Eat healthy: it’s good for you and your family. Takeaways now and then not every week. Vegetables are cheap and good for you, and often works out less expensive. A general guide is to shop around the outer edges of the supermarket where the unprocessed products can mostly be found. Beans and lentils are a great addition helping to bulk out meals and add nutrients .

Link: For some great, simple recipes, check out:

Growing Veges
Growing Veges

FOOD WASTE: Possibly one of the simplest but most effective changes we can make:

  1. Bread: one of our most common items at the dump. Don’t throw away bread crusts, freeze them to use later. Dry them for breadcrumbs, turn them into croutons for soups, make a vege loaf. Make bread pudding or Bread and Butter Pudding* Don’t forget to recycle the bags.
  2. Leftovers: use them up for lunches or freeze*
  3. Cook extra: Cook enough for a couple of nights, even extra pasta, rice or spuds makes the next meal easier.
  4. Shopping list: Shop with a list and buy what you need for the next week or two. Of course your usual staples like rice and pasta get to stay.
  5. Storage: Store food so that the newest is at the back of the pantry or fridge (don’t forget the freezer) and you can easily use up the older stuff first. Check your fridge contents every so often to ensure nothing is expiring or about to go to waste.
  6. Stocks and soups: Learn to make stock or soups using the odds and ends of veges, meat bones etc.
  7. Composting: Learn about composting, a worm farm or bokashi, to feed your gardens. Or you can set up a system with family or neighbours, or share community gardens.
  8. Best before: You can use food items which are after their best before date as long as they look and smell Ok. Stuff past it’s use by date is not OK.
  9. Cleaner: Citrus peels can be added to a jar of vinegar to make a fresh smelling cleaner.*
  10. Fridge supplies: Try making a “what-have-we-got-left-in-the-fridge meal” instead of having a set plan for what you want for dinner?
Mobile compost heap


STUFF, STUFF and LESS STUFF: Recycle, reuse or pass it on.

  1. Habits: Adopt the new shopping mantra “do I need this?” or “do I want this?”. See the Buyerarchy of Needs (it’s a mouthful I know). See also the link below about Fast Fashion and its impact on the environment.
  2. Quality: If you are purchasing a new item, try to get the best quality and most durable option.
  3. Minimise plastics, recycle whatever you can, especially useful if you don’t get your rubbish collected. Check out your local dump’s recycling and also your local Environment Centre*. Also reuse your plastic bottles to get refills of hand soap, washing up and laundry liquid, oils and vinegars etc.*
  4. Give away: Pass on items that are no longer needed to others, or op shops, as long as they are in good condition.
  5. Babies and young children: If you have a baby or young children, get or make some soft cloths instead of disposable wipes, carry some damp ones in a bag or pot when you go out. Revisit reusable nappies, there are some great ones available now. Check out Trade Me or local online garage sales.
  6. Mend or repurpose: there’s loads of info on google these days on how to fix things.
  7. Sharing: Are there some items you can share with family, friends or neighbours? A bit challenging but there might be something, make sure you all agree on the terms of sharing such as maintenance and repairs.
  8. Takeaways: use your own coffee cup and keep it in the car, also some containers for takeaways if you are allowed.
  9. Paper Towels: Toilet paper and hand towels can be purchased in bulk by mail order and come without extra packaging, Greencane for example supply these made from sugarcane and bamboo.


OUR ENVIRONMENT: Bigger picture stuff, not all of us can do but any step is a step in the right direction. For those of us lucky enough to have gardens there are some simple changes we can make

  1. Litter: Don’t throw rubbish out of your car window, or leave where it can be blown around. Pick up any rubbish you see when out walking.  Much of the rubbish on the roadsides gets washed into storm drains, then into our waterways and eventually into the sea.
  2. Donate to a cause that supports protecting our natural environment, eg. Forest & Bird, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund others?
  3. Learn about methods of gardening that do not rely on pesticides and weed killer, and this will encourage a wide range of bugs and birds to live in your garden.
  4. Mow your lawns less often, now there’s a challenge!
  5. Mulching, using old cardboard boxes, newspaper etc topped with dried grass clippings,dried leaves, hay or straw. Bark mulch is Ok for flower beds. Keeps weeds down and prevents water loss in hot weather.
  6. Plant trees, or find someone to plant them that has the space.



WATER: A most precious commodity, what can we do to avoid waste and keep it clean?

  1. Rubbish: Be aware of your rubbish and where it goes, see previous challenges.
  2. Don’t leave taps running if you don’t need to. Choose eco function on washing machines or dishwashers if you can, only rinse dishes that are seriously dirty.
  3. Washing dishes: If you don’t have a dishwasher it’s more economical to wash dishes in the sink or a bowl rather than under a running tap.
  4. Rainwater collecting: Consider setting up one small rainwater tank, maybe off a shed or garage roof. It could collect into a dustbin sized container and could supply you with fresh drinking water, or water for your plants.
  5. The 4 minute shower *
  6. Use eco friendly cleaning products and hair and shower washes, or just plain soap, don’t forget the carwash suds ( if you wash your car!) *.
  7. Grey water: Can you set up a system for reusing your grey water from showers, washing machine etc
  8. Composting toilet: We saved the best to last… why not install a composting toilet? They save water and do not need processing in big sewage ponds which often end up polluting our waters. The compost created can be used after a year or two for feeding trees and shrubs. 
Our beautiful stream


POWER AND TRANSPORT: Another biggy. There’s a lot of information out there about how to cut back our use of cars, which is fine if you live somewhere with walking and cycling access, but much more of a challenge as rural dwellers. Luckily we can all do things to cut back our use of electricity.

  1. Use a clothes line rather than a drier
  2. Switch off lights etc when you are not needing them. If you have a heater on, keep the doors shut, and close curtains at night to keep the warmth in.
  3. Streaming: Apparently if you watch movies at a slightly lower definition it can effectively save power.
  4. LED bulbs: Replace regular light bulbs with LED bulbs.
  5. Screen time: What about a screen free sunday each week for everyone in your home? Perhaps it would be a good time to pursue some other interests, or have some old fashioned family time playing board games or going for a walk.
  6. Oven: If you have the oven on, use it to cook several things at the same time.
  7. Driving: Trips to town, try and do all your jobs on one trip, that’s an optimistic thought. Carpool for outings.
  8. EV: Explore the option of getting an electric or hybrid car, this is sure to get easier over the next year or so, and there is a government subsidy for new and imported cars. The pros and cons still need to be ironed out.
  9. Solar Panels: If you own your own house it would be great to investigate getting solar panels. Also check you have good insulation, and generally check out your home’s resilience.
  10. Investment: If you have money invested, check to see that it’s being used ethically to support the changes we need to see.
  11. Paint it white: Did you know if you paint your house roof white, an average roof of 100sq metres can reflect enough sun in a year to cancel 10 tonnes of CO2, or approx 2.5 cars worth. The concept has been around for a few years but the jury was out as to whether this helps or not. Now it seems it’s a good choice, guess what we’ll be doing soon?


Solar Panels
Solar Panels

KEEPING IT ALL TOGETHER: Most importantly in these challenging times, we need to look after our own sense of wellbeing and find some positives. We are so blessed to live in New Zealand, and that’s a good start for being grateful.

  1. Support: We all need a support group of like minded friends or family to share experiences with, both good and not so good. You could join a group to learn new skills.
  2. Gratitude: The old cliche of counting your blessings. It’s now been proven that focusing on the good things in your day, before you go to sleep, helps to improve your mental health and optimism. What were your 3 best things today? Share them or write them down.
  3. Outdoors: Time in nature has been proven to give us a better sense of wellbeing and more positive health, even seeing trees outside the window counts. Best of all, take time to walk through the bush or along the beach, or simply walk along the road and admire the variety of gardens there.
  4. Screen time: What about a screen free sunday each week for everyone in your home? Perhaps it would be a good time to pursue some other interests, or have some old fashioned family time playing board games or going for a walk.
  5. Creativity is great for one’s wellbeing, whether it’s listening or playing music, doing something arty, writing, gardening, reorganising your space, singing, sewing or knitting, dancing, anything that you can put a bit of yourself into. You don’t need to be good at it, just able to lose yourself in it.
  6. Resilience: It’s not an easy task, but being mentally prepared, and understanding the predicaments we face, ultimately helps us be stronger and more resilient come whatever may. Resilience is about being prepared in our homes, and in ourselves.
  7. Meditation: really just another word for being present here and now and not lost in thoughts of what ifs and wherefores. Check out youtube for some options too.*
  8. Keeping afloat: It’s a balancing act between keeping up with the latest information on climate change, covid and so on, and getting bogged down feeling overwhelmed. Doing any of the things on these lists will help you to feel a bit more hopeful for our future, and will be adding your small changes to a whole lot of other peoples small changes and that adds up to a big change.


Finding beauty in the garden

Mastering Mask Making

You should be able to whip up a mask in under 15 minutes. This style has four layers of cotton, with a pue cleaner for close fitting to the nose. We used soft garden tie for the ear hooks, but you could use elastic or hair ties, and you can also make longer ties to tie behind your head. Follow the orange thread to see where you’re working.

You will need:
˖ 1 x fancy pants piece of cotton fabric 30×27 cm or the like (non-fancy stuff will also do…)
˖ 1 x plain cotton fabric for the inner layer, 30×27 cm
˖ 1 x 15 cm pipe cleaner
˖ 4 x 15 ties (or elastic/hair ties etc) 

Step 1: Fold inner fabric in half to 15x20cm and insert pipe cleaner into place.

Step 2: Stitch pipe cleaner into place.

Step 3: Fold outer fabric in half – right side in (27×15) and ties on the outside.

Step 4: Stitch sides and turn so that right side and tie are outside.

Step 5: Insert inner fabric so that the pipe cleaner is at the very top and the fabric sits flat.

Step 6: Stitch along top to hold in place.

Step 7: Stitch along the bottom as well, and make sure to catch the inner fabric too. 
Zigzag will do, otherwise fold the fabric to make it look tidy.

Step 8: Iron two pleats and pin ready to sew and stitch in place.

Step 9: Fold mask in half with pleats face down. Adjust ties to suit, store in a plastic bag. 

Step 10: You’re ready to venture out into the big world.

We have taken a huge leap of faith and pulled out our flush toilet, replacing it with a composting loo.

Living in rural Hawkes Bay we have been responsible for our water supply, the wellbeing of our septic tank and at times the unblocking of blocked pipes. Not only did we waste water through the toilet, we had to pay for the septic tank to be emptied and because we use creek water which is rich in lime, our toilet looked gross quite often and needed cleaning with a chisel, and because we tried not to flush unnecessarily it often smelt bad. We watched a video which pointed out that as a population we take 2 perfectly useful commodities: clean water and useful compost material, we mix them together and then create a problem with what to do with the mess.

The retired flush toilet awaiting recycling.

Where our loo is situated there is little space under the floor, so we couldn’t have a larger tank below. after much searching we found a suitable model that meets our needs. It’s a simple system with an outer case & seat. Inside is a bucket, which can be rotated to avoid pile ups! Actually we’ve discovered the simplest system is to save the toilet roll tubes and use those to redistubute any pile ups. We’ve connected the fan into the existing vent and the drain pipe for excess liquid is popped into the greywater system from the sinks, this goes into the septic tank.


Composting toilet in place

 Composting toilet in place

The system we have claims not to need emptying very often, but we find for four of us we empty it about every 2-3 weeks, which is not a big deal. We bought a large bale of pine woodshavings for $15 and reckon that will last us at least 6 months. We are using Greencane toilet paper, made from sugarcane and bamboo. I bought a pack of biodegradable nappy liners and we can use these in the bottom of the bucket to stop the drain holes from blocking up.  What we’ve also discovered is that to keep the drainage flowing it’s good to put a couple of plants stalks under the liners, I keep Lily stems and other semi soft stems to use, rather than sticks which will not break down.

Once the bucket is 3/4 full, which is about every 2 weeks for 3 people,  we take it outside with the lid on, (actually we put it into a big bucket in case it dripped) where it stays until bucket number 2 needs removing. We’ve set up two old drums away from the house where we shall empty the buckets and then leave for 12 months to quietly break down.

I keep and old toothbrush inside the outer drum and use this to clean the drainage base each time we empty it, and spray some nice smelling cleaner in there.

There are way more plusses than minuses for this new system, the lack of waste water, no maintenance other than emptying and rinsing out, no smells, and the toilet seat is warm! We shall have to wait and see how the compost turns out, I think it will get used to feed shrubs rather than vegetables, but we’ll see how we feel when we get to that point.

It’s generally recommended to leave the compost 6-12 months before using.

All set to go!

All set to go!


Drain for excess liquid

Drain for excess liquid


Fan into existing pipe

Fan into existing pipe


Our pine shavings

Our pine shavings


Wood shavings

Wood shavings

Building Resilience

You will probably notice a transition in the content of our blog over the coming months, away from nature focused posts and seasonal updates, towards something relative to the times we are currently living in.

Given the events that have transpired this year, the rampant confusion and agendas that have permeated so much news we see and read, the lack of transparency from governments in regards to information about Covid-19 and climate change, the fractures that have made themselves apparent within communities and countries, and the division that has taken hold among friends, family and countrymen, it is no wonder that people are feeling a little overwhelmed with 2020 and are looking forward to seeing in the new year.

In the beginning months of this year as we watched Covid-19 spread out around the world, and attempted to find clear information of just what the situation was, what was going on, and what we might expect in the coming months, it became increasingly clear that things were changing in a big way, and that if we wanted to remain safe, we had to follow our own instincts, at least until the governments caught up with the situation and started putting the right procedures in place. Here in New Zealand, we have been incredibly blessed that the government didn’t attempt to hide the facts or downplay the severity of Covid-19, and were instead up front with us, putting human safety ahead of the economy.

It’s no surprise that around the world, the mental health of people has suffered. After all, the ramifications of the changes taking place are huge. Here at Millstream, we were fortunate enough to follow Chris Martenson’s videos where he analyzed current news and information about Covid-19 and the situation going on around the world. It was an anchor for us, knowing that he had no agenda behind his videos other than clarity, we could cut through the noise of news, and felt a sense of safety in our shared perspective.

As part of his series, he often talks about the concept of resilience, and this is something that has really resonated with us. We have begun the task of improving our resilience for whatever may come in the future. As you may have read in our last post, we now have another water tank in place (to accommodate for those years with less frequent rainfall), we have attempted to spend less (putting aside money for unexpected future costs), our power supply is supplemented by solar, and we are experimenting with making new or alternative food options so if we are unable to get ahold of something, we can substitute and not suffer disruption.

So we are building our resilience in material ways, but there is also a certain “mental preparedness” that we are working on as well. The concept of accepting a future that is less bright is not an easy one to wrap your head around, and yet that is just what we need to do. We need to look at the various pieces and recognise that things are changing, that even if Covid-19 disappears next year, things will not miraculously return to normal. Climate change is happening, and we need to be prepared for that. It’s not an easy task, but being mentally prepared, and understanding the predicament which we face, ultimately helps us be stronger and more resilient come whatever may. If we can shine a light into our near future and illuminate just a few obstacles, we will be better off to avoid them, if and when we encounter them.

Resilience is about being prepared in our homes, and in ourselves. As we learn and experiment over the coming years, we hope to offer some insights, suggestions and information that may in turn help you to increase your resilience.

Be safe.
Giles & The Millstream Team

Making changes…

Since Giles & Rauna returned from Denmark in July, we have been consciously looking at how we function here at Millstream, in terms of our impact on the environment, how we use/waste resources, and how resilient we are to changes that may come.

It is great to have four heads working on this, and four peoples’ energies to help decide and make any changes we decide on. This has helped us to be less daunted and more positive about taking action. We want to share some of this process with others in an attempt to maybe help others to feel that even small changes can make a difference, and also to create a sense of community.

Part of our resilience assessment is that we are vulnerable in our supply of water. At present we have 2 concrete tanks that catch rainwater from the house roof, this is supplemented in summer by water pumped up from the stream.  Droughts seem to be a much more likely event now, and indeed we are already in need of a good dose of rain.  So far the stream has always flowed, but it’s not something we can take for granted any more, we feel incredibly lucky to have the ‘Millstream’ run through our land, but we don’t want to abuse it by over use.

The first step we have taken is to buy a watertank for the workroom. This is a 21,000L plastic tank, which was dropped at the end of our drive last week. We’ve also got a second filter system, so we are safe to use it domestically. We already have two small tanks which catch just rainwater from smaller roofs, and these keep us supplied with sweet drinking water.

Other steps forward:

*We have started a fund where we each put in $10 a month to put towards buying more trees to plant around the property and to pay for fences etc.

*We are going to set up a system for recycling jars from our customers, hopefully by November.

* We have been encouraging each other to shop less and have this neat pyramid to remind us, plus peer group pressure!! Our main weaknesses are plants and books. Plants are easy to justify and at least books can be sent back to the op shop and earn some more dollars.

*We are gradually being able to source better options for packaging, we have compostable tapes for packaging, along with recycled boxes. Some courier bags are compostable, but not many yet.

* We took advantage of Solarzero’s offer of free solar panels so we can supplement about 25% of our power with solar.

* We have completed an Ekos carbon evaluation for our home and are waiting for the calculations for the business for the next year.

*We are cutting back our meat eating, not huge anyway. Since we have our own sheep, lamb is always a good option. Giles and Rauna have some good ideas for food alternatives, including making oat milk, then using the oat residue in hummus, bread and biscuits, and we have bought some mushroom growing spawn on dowels to grow on chestnut logs. This is very exciting, and mushroom growing is a Speeden passion! We will have to wait until the Autumn for any crops, but hopefully the logs will keep us supplied for 5 or 6 years.

Just a thought on toilet paper, we have been buying boxes of 48 unwrapped rolls of toilet paper from ‘Greencane’ ( which are made from bamboo and recycled sugarcane, which seems like an excellent use of plant material and a better option than trees.

On the down side we still have no easy way to recycle soft plastics, and many of our tins and jars are packed in plastic, any ideas??

My Sister Viv, has opened a small gallery in Pukehou. It is called “Artistically Inclined’ which is a clever way of inviting people who are creative, but perhaps in unexpected ways. (

Between us, we hatched a plan to bring some fresh work into the gallery, and encourage people to put their creative thinking hats on. We both love the ocean so the idea of a sea based exhibition was born. Well, because it’s a small gallery we thought that a ‘rolling exhibition’ would be good, so that work can be sold and new additions brought in.

When Viv & I were young, we lived on the coast, in Kent, UK & have both always had a strong affinity with the sea & all the creatures that live in it. I spent many hours exploring rockpools, looking for shells and other treasures washed up on the beach and of course we ate a lot of seafood, winkles, cockles, shrimps , prawns, oysters, scampi, eel and marvellous fresh fish.

We also experienced bizarre sightings, one year the whole beach was covered with hundreds of cuttlefish, they swam about in the boating pond until the next tide. Another time huge cream coloured jellyfish arrived looking like so many string mops. Most exciting was the year the sea froze, 1964 I think. There were big slabs of ice strewn all over the beach, as tall as I was, and no sign of water, just a gentle chinking sound as the ice moved on top of the waves. When the ice thawed it left behind an assortment of unusual creatures, including starfish as big as dinner plates & lobsters.

When I was about 11 or 12, I found a Guillemot covered in oil on the beach. A Guillemot looks like a penguin but can fly.  We cleaned it’s feathers with butter and fuller’s earth and nursed it back to health. It lived in the garden shed and every day I fed it strips of fresh fish, and on fine days it would sit under the sprinkler. We knew we could not release it back to the sea until it had moulted and got new feathers. So the next season I dutifully carried it down to the beach and sadly set it down by the water. It took off without a backwards glance and was quickly lost to sight. As I was  turning to go home, someone came up to me & said “I don’t know what it was that you put in the water, but it’s coming back.” So Gilly came back home & stayed with us for several years.

It may have been that Gilly was a victim of the Torrey Canyon disaster, 1967, a huge super tanker that ran aground spilling millions of gallons of oil. I clearly remember walking our small beach at Westgate and counting over 50 dead seabirds, covered in black oil.

When I was fifteen I got a part-time job in a vets, & over the 18 months I worked there I took home a number of seabirds including a very fierce Herring Gull, a Razorbill and a Puffin, and another Guillemot. Later still when I was in high school in Tavistock, part of the A Level Zoology course included studying marine biology. For 2 years we spent a week each summer staying in a hostel and visiting about 8 different beaches, where we named and counted and measured all the sea life we could see. I used to know all the latin names of the seaweeds and animals, but alas I can’t recall them all now. One of the things I learnt then was the effect that different levels of exposure have on the creatures. Steep rock faces, fierce waves or sheltered estuary beds all provide habitats for different combinations of life.

Ok, back to the gallery…after spending some time looking for images to inspire us, both Viv & I could not avoid the awful truth of what is happening to our oceans & the precious & incredible life they support. I knew about the Pacific Gyre of plastic, but the scale & horror of the plastics in the seas was and is, truly appalling. In an effort not to be totally overwhelmed and despondent I have put together a ‘Devastation Menu’ it has been a lot of work collating information and putting it together, so I thought it would be worth sharing it here. As I was pondering these things I remembered that we had a project at school when I was 12 to paint images from the local beaches and I had collected a big pile of plastic debris and painted them. My attempt at conservation was not encouraged & I had completely forgotten it until just the other day, fifty years on. Things certainly haven’t improved since then.

So below is my latest foray into creative conservation. Thanks for caring enough to read it.


This is a link to an article in the local paper about the exhibition:

I see too, that New World & The Warehouse are starting to implement collection points for recycling soft plastics. As yet they haven’t reached Hawkes Bay but are available in Auckland, Wellington and much of the South Island. We shall all have to start asking for that option, as it seems almost impossible to completely avoid plastics in our every day lives.


Despite my best intentions to write this up as soon as we got home, it’s now two months since we made this trip. Since our previous trip with the ancient caravan, we have made some serious repairs to it. We’ve waterproofed the roof with a rubberised paint, and replaced a whole lot of timber around the door frame, which had rotted to a soggy mess and meant that opening and shutting the door had been a hit and miss affair. So it was with renewed (and not misplaced) optimism that we set off to Paekakariki. We’ve stayed at the camp site there before and knew it would be the perfect base camp. The Paekakariki Holiday Park is set just inside the Queen Elizabeth Park , right at the far northern end of the settlement so it is quiet and rural, with easy and interesting tracks to walk, to the beach and along wooded paths. Of course we chose to go out of season, partly because of our commitments to harvesting herbs through the Summer, and partly because we wanted a quiet time.

View of Paekakariki Beach

Smooth landing

Kapitit Island was the highlight of our trip, we were very lucky to go over on the one stunningly fine day of the week we were away. We booked the trip with which provided a ferry trip each way, plus an explanatory talk on arrival. We also decided to take advantage of walking with a guide for part of the day, and this was really worthwhile too, providing us with lots of extra observations and information.

Very good tracks

Geoff and Kaka

Check in time was 8.30 am, and we received a confirmation text about 7 to confirm the trip was to go ahead. Setting off armed with plenty of food supplies, and clothing for every possible outcome, we set off. The weather was perfect, the sea calm and sparkling, the fully laden  boat set off, the trip over taking about 15 minutes. Before we even reached the island we could hear a wonderful chorus of bird song, and see many birds flying around the bush clad hills. It was like stepping back in time, imagining how much of New Zealand would have once resonated with such

rich life.

After the introductory talk about 6 of us set off with our guide, among other things, we saw the debris of twigs and berries that the Kaka leave under their feeding spots, we saw the chewed seed heads of Flak that the Kakariki love to eat. There was a very desultory collection of twigs overhead, which we learnt was a Kereru nest, way up the hill we found a tunnel that was a Little Blue Penguin burrow, it was hard to believe that the penguins would travel so far.

View from track, Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island Beach

When our guide left us we carried on up the track to the feeding station, here we saw Saddlebacks, Stitchbirds, North Island Robins, Bellbirds, a Weka and most excitingly a Kaka, which landed on Geoff’s shoulder. For me that was enough hill walking, so we retraced our steps down to the coast, where we had our lunch and enjoyed watching all the bird activity. It was a magical day out, we highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in conservation and our beautiful bird life.  Next time I think we’ll stay overnight to see the Little Spotted Kiwi and hear the Kokako, there are also Takahe on the island but they were up in the tops in March, so perhaps we’ll see them next visit.The link below is the DOC brochure which shows you all the wildlife to be found on Kapiti.

Click to access kapiti-island-brochure.pdf

Of course we spent a lovely time in and around Paekak, and even venturing into Wellington one very wet day to see the WW1 Exhibition at the War Memorial Museum, and to browse the many temptations at Moore Wilsons, but the other highlight for us was visiting the upstairs gallery above the Cafes in Paekakariki, ‘Alan Wehipeihana Studio & Gallery,’ a wonderful creative space, with all sorts of intriguing artworks and inspiration. We really enjoyed talking with Alan and exploring the large area set aside for artists, what a great place to be creative in.

Just recently we have come across some new creatures in the garden that we haven’t seen before.  Aparasitic wasp that feeds on Lemon Tree Borer, it has striking patterns & distinctive white tips to it’s antenna. One site I found said that it may also feed on Codlin Moth larvae, which would be very useful in our orchard.

Lemon Tree Borer Parasite (Xanthocryptus novozealandicus)

Lemon Tree Borer Parasite (Xanthocryptus novozealandicus)

Green Tufted Lichen Moth

Green Tufted Lichen Moth

We also found a cool Moth, called the Tufted Lichen Moth, it’s not flashy, but using our cool new camera with a microscope function we could clearly see the tufts on it’s wings that give it it’s name.


Thirdly we came across a bright yellow ladybird, which was easy to identify. It is a Fungus eating Ladybird, which sounded useful, but apparently it stores spores of  powdery mildew or similar under it’s wing cases over Winter, while it hibernates & so can ensure it will have a food supply. Despite this habit I think it looks very cool & am happy to take my chances. It is always exciting to find something new, & interesting finding out just what it is. These small details of nature are amazing, the strangeness & complexity of it all. I’ve been visiting a website that helps with info & identification  called Nature Watch NZ, it’s well worth a visit.

Fungus Eating Ladybird Illeis galbula

Fungus Eating Ladybird Illeis galbula

A few weeks ago our son, Giles discovered some new & interesting spiders living near his home. These looked like tiny droplets of mercury, some were minute, and all we could see was a small glimmer of light reflecting off them. Good old Google images came up with a name, Dew Drop Spiders, or to give them their full name Argyrodes antipodianus. These originate from Australia but are pretty well spread throughout NZ. They are described as ‘kleptoparasitic’ – parasites by theft, which is a new word for me. This tiny spider makes a web which is attached to a host spider’s web, & from this it can sense when small prey are entrapped, small enough that the host spider doesn’t notice. The Dew Drop Spider makes a sortie onto the web, grabs its dinner & hastily retreats back to its own web.

Dew Drop Spider

After having a good look at the Dew Drops we wandered around looking to see if we could find any more on the fences. I came across quite a large web, with what looked at first to be a bird dropping on it, but as I looked more closely I could see some sort of spider in the middle. As we watched this very odd shaped spider came out to bundle up a fly, then it took it back into the central line, adding to what I’d first thought was a bird dropping. Above the web, there were three brown blobs, which we took to be tree gum or something similar, later, via Google again we found that these were egg cases for the spider. Now some weeks later they are still unchanged.

Information I have gathered about this weird spider, it’s official name is Cyclosa trilobata, a native to NZ. It belongs to the Orb Spider  category, & it seems that it’s habit of crouching in the middle of it’s fly debris may be a form of camouflage. They vary a lot in colour, grey, black, red, browns & silvers, & the males perhaps have more silver markings. Some of their Australian cousins make the most stunning webs, but this one is pretty unremarkable.

Three Lobed Spider Egg Cases Three Lobed Spider

In March 2014 I wrote an article about the health of our waterways, & had entered a piece of fibre art into the Nelson Fibre Art exhibition called ‘Downstream.’ I’ve just been reading an article in the Listener about a scientist called Mike Joy who is taking a stand for the wellbeing of New Zealands fresh water resources, here is the link:

Our Creek Millstream

I’m interested in the study of species found in the water that act as indicators of water health or otherwise. I’m going to do some research of my own & report back what I find out. At the moment I can’t even identify many species so shall have to get familiar with those creatures we may hope to find in our own creek & other waterways. I have noticed that there seem to be few koura or freshwater crayfish around at the moment & this is unusual as we often see dozens in one spot. We also continue to have large rafts of algae in the slower running places, which block the stream & exacerbate growth of duckweed etc which further blocks the flow, hard to tell if this is a result of upstream pollution or simply that one of the large willows fell down & there is more sunlight warming the water & feeding the algae.The link below is informative on the process of checking the invertebrates in a given water supply. (benthic means at the lowest level, eg. the bottom of a stream bed, including silt.

Now it’s April, I have had one foray into the creek with a net & bucket, but alas also with leaky gumboots, which dampened my enthusiasm. The leaky boots also hindered my attempts to find critters to identify since I am a total sook about cold water. I took a few photos, & identified a couple of things,(I have meantime lost the piece of paper with their names on,) so on the whole it was not a hugely successful outing. We have some intrepid friends visiting this weekend & shall have a more thorough go at finding  some creatures & identifying them. Hopefully I can add some more useful info after that.

Critters from creek march2016 005 (Copy)

Click to access Macroinvertebrates_and_water_quality.pdf