Well the shortest day has been & gone, & although we probably have the coldest weather to come, it always feels optimistic to reach the halfway mark. It’s been a few weeks since I last wrote in the blog, during that time we have caught up with all 3 of our grown-up children, which is a great feeling. We worked together, with Richard, Giles & Libby gathering in firewood & doing some major projects around the place that needed extra muscle! Then we went to Hamilton, to visit our daughter & her family, which was very special too. In between eating & catching up on each other’s news we explored Hamilton a bit.

The Botanic Gardens (above, & photo of Geoff with Tahlia, our granddaughter, in the beloved backpack) were a revelation, even at this time of year. We had a good look around the themed gardens, & will go back to look again in the Spring. We also explored Lake Rotoroa, near the Hospital. This is a huge lake, with excellent walkways all the way round, & beautiful new plantings of reeds, grasses etc. Heaps of bird life too. It was lovely on a Sunday morning to see so many people out & about, enjoying the area.

We’ve had a run of heavy frosts, leaves are still falling from some shrubs, & at the same time new life is stirring, the buds on the magnolias are swelling, & the Wintersweet & Kowhai ‘Dragon’s Gold’ have their first flowers.

Kowhai 'Dragon's Gold'

Our experimental Tamarillo tree, still has 11 fruit on, which are nearly ripe, despite the top leaves being frosted. The Feijoas are still cropping, it must be the best year ever, we’ve learnt that if we store them in a cool place they don’t become over-ripe. The sheep have developed a taste for the smaller fruit, which we throw over the fence.

In a sheltered area we have a Strelitzia, which grows soooo slowly, but we just noticed it has, what looks like, a flower bud on it, hopefully it will weather the frosts.

(Photos above L. to R. sun rising through mist on the Te Hauke flats, Gunnera leaves, crumpled by frost, Copper Beech, View from garden)

Trade Aid has an art exhibition on at the moment, you can view their website at www.tradeaid.co.nz It’s an internet competition, I have entered a basket made of garden rubbish, but I don’t expect to come anywhere as there are some really clever entries, it’s well worth a look. One of our favourites, in the Primary section, is a pair of shoes made out of milk bottles, they look so funny.