Monday, 27 September 2010

Pleasures of the season

Today has been warm with the promise of summer.  Yesterday was a typically sping day, warm out of the wind but cool in the wind.

Just as I was wondering how I was going to entice two of my grand-daughers to come for a walk with me, the man who traps eels in our creek stopped by to leave a message for my son and in doing so told me he had left his eels and a trap where the little creek feeds into big creek.  The girls' ears didn't miss that piece of information and they were very keen to go see the eels.

I knew exactly where he meant and within minutes we set out.  To Georgia and me this is the place where the mallets are and relates back to my first ever blog post.

It was a lovely day, (ignore the wind) - mellow, with lovely soft sunshine.  The dairy herd in the paddock next door to my house looked like the contented cows we imagine produce our milk. 

Call me nuts if you like. but even the effluent ponds look lovely:

Further along the track, the recently born calves also looked happy.

Between the two were a few cows that have given birth in the past 24 hours.  I love to see new calves testing out their legs:

But our destination was the creek.  It was flowing quite swifly after all the recent rain, a bit murky and looking awfully cold.

Not that cold water means anything to the enthusiasm of children.  The minute they spotted the eel traps, the girls kicked off their gumboots, hitched up their long pants and waded in. 

If you look carefully, and I do mean really look hard, you can see the eels that fascinated the girls so much, in the trap.

But kids being kids, they soon tired of the eels and went on to play, as they usually do, in the creek, picking up 'beautiful' rocks, throwing twigs into the creek and watching them 'scoot' down the creek.

To Sammy, Georgia's little dog, the flow of the creek was quite strong.  I laughed listening to her encouraging him to come across, "Come on, Sammy.  Dog paddle.  You're a dog, dog paddle, Sammy.  You can do it, Sammy!"  He was washed downstream a bit, but he make it safely across.  Poor Sammy, his valiant effort was met by peels of laughter!

It was a lovely afternoon but eventually the cold of the girls' legs, and the little midgeies that were attacking us, meant we had to head home, Shayde with a precious rock from the creek in each hand:

Georgia dragging her 'boat'.  (Come on, look closely, you can see it's a boat!)

And me with my hat full of 'treasures' retrieved from the creek.

Ahh, I love where I live!!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Silver Fox of the Year

The time has come to tell you about my search for the Silver Fox of the Year. is conducting just such a photography competition.  When I first read about it, I already had this photo that I put on the blog here, back in July.

So I fired off an email to Forbes, (the subject) asking his permission to use this photo.  Before his reply came, I went to dinner and a play with a group from work to watch one of our team-mates perform.   I was on the look-out for silver foxes.  The drinks waiter was an elderly gentleman with a wonderful thatch of very well groomed silver hair.  He looked quite distinguished in his crisp white shirt and black bow tie.

Thanking my lucky stars, I bounded out of my chair and asked could I please take his photo.  He readily agreed and suggested he stand in front of the blood red wall of the entrance corridor.  Perfect!   But I knew I had to have his permission to enter his photo in the competition.  He was agreeable until he realized grownups is on the internet.  No, no, he didn't want his photo on the internet.  He knows all about the internet.  Knows about Facebook and did not want his photo on a place like Facebook.  No, no, he would not appear on the net.  He practically spat out the words 'the net'.   I very quickly understood that when this man says no, he means NO!  I thanked him politely for his time and skulked back to my seat, totally deflated, telling myself I must have totally lost my touch if I couldn't sweet talk an old man. 

For the rest of the evening every time I looked up that man was watching me with a look of sheer suspicion on his face.  He seemed to think I was the spawn of the devil, waiting for another chance to lead him into the den of iniquity that is the internet.  When we left at the end of the play I said goodnight and he stonily looked straight through me.  I went home chuckling that it was worth losing my touch to be regarded as a wicked woman!

Anyway, the next day Forbes emailed his permission to use his photo.  The competition is decided on votes and I have to admit Forbes has some pretty stiff foxy competition.  Come on now, ladies, admit it, most of us appreciate a foxy guy.  Go and check them out, you will have to register but that is very quick and easy and it is a safe site.  Just click here.

Of course I'd like you to vote for Forbes but if you can't resist one of the other foxes I will understand.  hehe

Oh, and there's nothing in it for me, the subject wins the prize!

Friday, 24 September 2010

FSO- Hot and Cold

Doreen suggest we have fun with this theme and think out of the box.

Sorry, I can't even think within the box this week, and I'm incapable of having fun at the moment.

And the only cold I have on my mind is the one I've had since last Saturday.  I'm so grumpy!  Sick of feeling miserable and wondering why the hell I haven't been able to shake it off.  And if anyone suggests the ageing thing - well, I wouldn't if I were you!

The weather is also cold, wet and windy.  Oh yes, very windy and I am not an all-weather photographer, not when I'm feeling grumpy anyway.  Outside it's all grey skies and strong winds.

I'd rather stay at home and put my hands in hot water to do the dishes.
Pathetic?  Yeah, I know. 
I hope checking everyone else's shoot-outs will cheer me up.  Keep smiling, people!

Monday, 20 September 2010

I think he was happy

One morning last week as I was heading out to work I noticed the resident ostrich here where I am house-sitting was right near the fence.  He's not a friendly ostrich, normally he keeps his distance from people and pretends to not see you if you go near his paddock.  I've been warned to not for one minute think he's not aware of your every move and never, under any circumstances, to go near him.  

And there he was, so close, and when I stopped the car and jumped out with my camera I really do think he was unaware of me. 

He was doing something I've never seen him do before.  Now, I admit I know nothing about ostriches but I always thought they ate vegetation but this guy was definitely on the hunt for insects of some description.  Mr Google tells me they do indeed eat such things as seeds, grains, fruit, shoots, leaves and flowers. They may also feed on large insects such as locusts.  I don't the insects on the menu were very large - not large enough for me to see, anyway.

But whatever he was after, he knew how to catch them.  Spreadeagled on the ground he was flapping his wings to disturb something in the grass, his long neck swivelling left and right as he chomped loudly with his beak.  I wouldn't want to be nipped by that beak! 

Then he'd lift his head as if to check that none and got away.

Before going back to beating the ground with his wings and snaffling up his prey.

Although he did seem unaware of me I wasn't brave enough to stick the camera lends through the wire of the fence.    

Then he suddenly seemed to see me.  Slowly, as if reluctantly, he hauled himself to his feet.  But his wings were still not folded back and I suspect the moment I got in the car and hurried off to work, he would have gone back to his feast.

Friday, 17 September 2010

FSO - Flora, Fauna ande pets

Choosing which of our flora and fauna to concentrate on, has been the hardest part of this week's topic.  I've decided to stick with our native specimens. 

The Pukeko, or New Zealand Swamp Hen, is one of the few New Zealand native birds to have flourished since the arrival of man.  They love swampy areas.  We rarely see them here on the farm but there are dozens of them down along the road a bit.  They are quite beautiful with their bright blue plumage and red beaks, and fluffly white tail feathers which they flash when alarmed.They have an endearing goofiness about them with their long skinny legs and long toes on their feet.

My son has two huge trees around his house where the native wood pigeon (kereru) often visit around sunset in summer.  They thrive in lowland forest and we are lucky enough to live near their habitat.   Its head, throat, upper breast and back are a metallic green flecked with gold and with a purple sheen, its belly white and its eye, beak and feet are crimson. It is truly a gorgeous bird. It is an unusually silent bird so it is hard to detect their presence unless you have heard the soft whooshing of their wings as they come in to perch.

The tui, on the other hand, just love to sing... a lot.  They sing a variety of beautiful melodies.  You usually hear them before you see them.  They live throughout New Zealand, just about anywhere, in forests and towns and on off-shore islands. This is my daughter's friend, Tony, who sits outside her office window and signs to her.

The tuis distinctive white tuft under their throat, contrasts dramatically with the metallic blue-green sheen of their underlying black colour.

Not at all melodious but very noisy is the kaka, one of three ancient parrots of NZ.  To be honest, until a few years ago I knew nothing about them.  One morning, when my twin grand-daughters were in their first year at school, I was waiting with them at the gate for the school bus and we heard a rowdy sqwarking coming from the giant magnolia tree under which we were standing.  We looked up to see a large mostly green bird with a lighter coloured head and large beak chattering down at us.  And was he chattering, loudly and raucously, with his head moving enquiringly from side to side.  A character of a bird.  As soon as the girls got on the bus he flew away, did a few laps around the house, calling loudly before disappearing and I glimpsed a flash of brilliant orangey/red under his wings.  I had no idea what he was, thought he was a kea but I knew they were South Island birds.  Totally intrigued I rang the Department of Conservation who were most interested in our visitor and identified it as a young kaka male.  They breed on the off shore islands and each season a few young (the equivalent of our teenager) males go off exploring.  One had been reported about 10 km south of us the week before and they guessed this was him and asked could I let them know when he moved on.

For a couple of weeks the girls and I had the pleasure of his company.  Every morning he would be waiting for us in that same tree and start his racket as soon as he heard us coming.  They nearly missed the bus a couple of times - we were so engrossed we didn't hear it coming.  There is no doubt he was interacting with the girls.  I've read that they socialise in the early morning and late evening and I guess we were his morning friends.  As soon as the girls got on the bus he would do his few laps of the house ,screeching, then go elsewhere for the day. 

Then he was gone, as quickly as he'd  appeared.  Looking for new adventures, new friends perhaps?

This is the only photo I managed to get of him and the colours were all wrong.  At least not the colours that were visible to my naked eye.  So I got a friend to play with in PhotoShop (which I don't have).

The pohutakawa's flowers are not yet out.  By Christmas we will see them everywhere, particularly along the coast.  They are wonderful shade trees with a bright crimson flower and seem to be able to grow anywhere near the sea, out of cliff faces, on rocks.  Because of their red flowers and Christmas season flowering they are called the NZ Christmas Tree.   Now, why oh why, don't I have a decent photo of the tree.  I know I have in my archives but can't find them.  Time to tidy up the files, methinks!  But here's a flower:

Tree ferns are the opposite and most are found in damp shady spots beneath tree canopies, up the sides of gullies in NZ native bush. 

And now my best friend, my dear old Lewey.  His colour has faded, lots of grey creeping into his coat and his eyelashes are quite white but still, on a good day, in good light ....

and I couldn't have a photo of Lewey without his best mate and constant companion, Sammy, my grand-daughter's little dog.  I love his gentle face.

So, that's it for this week from the north of New Zealand.  To see some wonderful photography, check out the rest of the FSO team here.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Blessing of the Stone

Since the arrival of Maori in Aotearoa (New Zealand), around 800AD, pounamu has held a significant importance to Maori.

Pounamu is the Maori name for New Zealand Greenstone.

As it is a strong, hard and beautiful stone, Maori found pounamu ideal for making a variety of tools for woodworking and carving, including pieces for personal adornment. As a raw material, pounamu was highly valued and was used for trade between tribes and with European settlers.

However, its value is more than the beauty and practical properties. It is the spiritual significance of pounamu that is of far greater value for Maori.

To this day, pounamu has continued to maintain its spiritual significance for Maori, it is a powerful symbol of rank and mana (status) and modern Maori have adapted the old skills to modern stone cutting equipment to produce beautiful traditional and innovative modern forms of ornaments and artwork.

There are two types of jade used worldwide for carving. Their geological names are jadeite and nephrite, with only nephrite found in New Zealand (along the west coast of the South Island).
Kei secures the  pounamu around Hana's neck

Each carved design has a meaning and a carving given with love is believed to carry that meaning to the receiver and all that inherit it. A greenstone carving which is worn with respect or given and received with love, takes on part of the spirit of those who wear it and is a spiritual link between people over time and distance. It is powerful token of love and security.

 Hana keeping a suspicious eye on us.  (Love this shot, it is so typically him.)

When three friends and I decided to give a greenstone carving to our friend, Hana, who has recently turned 40, we wanted to acknowledge his status within our group of friends, and honour his achievements in life, to show our respect. 

We felt a man who has achieved so much should have a greenstone befitting our opinion of him.

We first met Hana when he was 19, a scrawny Maori lad from the Waikato with a gentle, softly spoken manner and an air of unassuming self confidence. He now says he was surprised to have secured the Junior Operater position at the dairy factory he had come north to interview for and if he hadn’t been given that start he doesn’t know what might have become of him, he would probably have ended up in a gang.  I was on the interview panel and there was “something about him” and I think it was in his voice, a deep, mellow voice with a soft timbre (and I still don’t believe his claim that he can’t sing). Oh OK, you don’t hire based on a voice but you can justify anything if you trust your instincts.

21 years later he is no longer scrawny, he’s filled out but nothing else has changed. He has progressed up through the dairy manufacturing industry with a quiet confidence and is now a global auditor with the world's largest exporter of dairy products.

In searching for the perfect greenstone for Hana we were lead to a noted Maori carver, Mike Mason, who hails from the home of greenstone, the west coast of the South Island, and he had for us the perfect stone. As I said before, each greenstone carving has a meaning and Hana's is Te Manaia (the Guardian Angel) which has the head of a bird, the body of a man, and the tail of a fish, representing the balance between sky, earth and water. Te Manaia, as the Guardian Angel, has a special role in the Maori world. It can be described as the unseen light surrounding each individual. It is the light we trust will always bring him safely home from his global travels. At the bottom is a whale’s tail. Whales are symbols of protection. This symbol of protection encompasses the friendship and companionship that words cannot express of the complex relationship between these mammals and Maori. It symbolises harmony and friendship.

 Finally relaxing after the ceremony

So yesterday we gathered at Chris’ home to have the stone blessed (and also a smaller, but very beautiful stone that had been gifted to Chris by Mike, the carver.)

Hana was a reluctant recipient of the gift, as much puzzled by why we would want to be doing this as anything, humouring us to an extent. And yesterday he added the art of graciously receiving to his many wonderful qualities.

Yes, he was happy with his gift. Yes, he will wear it with pride and respect. And, yes, he knows he is loved by four crazy women.

A hug from Chris

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Jay's bone carvings

Jay is a bone carver and musician.  His works sell the minute they hit the shop shelf.  So there weren't many pieces for me to photograph when I visited him.   To me, the visual beauty of his work is  almost surpassed by the joy they are to touch, to stroke.  They are a delight for the senses.

This last one was my favourite.  When I had all four pieces in my hand my fingers kept going back to it, even when I wasn't aware of what my fingers were doing.  I couldn't explain it then, and still can't.  It was as if it had a vibration, a life force.  There was a depth to it. I was so disappointed with this next photo.  I wanted to capture and perhaps be able to retain, how its touch had soothed me.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Today I saw love

I went out to get photos of musicians and instead found love.  In the most unexpected place, too. 

One of the musicians wasn't up to his usual Saturday morning  practise session but my companion and I visited him and I took some photos of  his beautiful bone carvings (coming tomorrow or the next day).  Forbes then suggested I take some photos of one of the characters of the Quarry Arts Centre in Whangarei.  Doesn't he have a lovely face?  But I wanted him relaxed,so I suggested he just talk to his wife while I snapped away. 

And I noticed how his face softened when he looked at her:

At first she was a little shy I think.

But look what happened when she looked up at him.  I didn't exist!

When we stepped outside to get photos of him working at his art, he entertained by reciting poetry,  one of lifes true characters.

Then he went back to crafting a walking stick.  Here's a work in progress.  The pole is ash, the join puriri and the Y shaped bit is pearwood.  It was beautiful to touch. 

Thanks, Sandy and Kay, for allowing me that glimpse of love.

Friday, 10 September 2010

FSO - Lines and stripes

When you look around lines and stripes - this week's topic - are everywhere.  I'm sure creative folk will find them in unexpected places.  The first thing that sprang to my mind was the railway line, probably because it is close by and a regular feature in my life.  I see it often and occasionally see a goods train rolling through.  There is no passenger service.  Just a single track to carry both north and south bound trains.

The rest of my photos were all taken last weekend when I was in Auckland visiting my daughters.  On Saturday we watched my grandson, Michael, play soccer, in a striped jersey - yay!  Here the teams form two lines to shake hands after the game.  That's Michael, the tallest in the team, in the middle of the shot.  Don't you love the little dog that joined in?  He'd watched the game sitting on the sideline, never once going near the field but when the game was over he scampered out to join his master.  Cute!

These are taken at a West Auckland playground and park:

That was easier than I expected!  To see how others interpreted this topic, just click here.