Books Read 2020

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Moths, Mantises, and Millie


There was another public fireworks display last night, this time at the Hamilton Lake.  I watched most of it out of my bedroom window, although it was partially obscured by some distant trees.  It looked quite spectacular with the quarter-moon and Venus hanging in the sky above the display.

There are a lot of moths and bugs flying around at night and several seem to find their way into my bedroom each night.  The biggest one was a Moon Moth which I caught and released outside the next day.   Its colouring is good camouflage when sitting on the bark of this conifer.




The Moon Moth was large enough to cover half of my palm, much bigger than the fingernail-sized pale yellow Lacebark Looper Moth that committed mothicide in my cup of tea!

Moon Moths get their name from the circular spot on each wing.




We also have Praying Mantis around, mostly brown although some are green.  Apparently they can change colour when moulting so that they can better match the colour of their environment.

Son had to rescue this one from his daughter’s bedroom and relocate it outside.




Millie was sitting outside looking charming beneath a fern, so I just had to take her picture.




On the whole it has been a quiet day today.  I wrote an email to my daughter and made a pizza for our lunch, and then rewatched the movie Contagion, which I thought rather appropriate at this time.

The pizza was a simple one – a scone base topped with a can of spaghetti, grated cheese, chopped bacon and crushed pineapple, with a sprinkle of Italian Herbs over the top.  Baked 30 minutes at 200 degrees and everyone was happy!




Time now for a steaming hot cup of tea and do a puzzle or two in my new Pixel Puzzles book before preparing dinner.  Tonight we are having grilled steak with boiled new potatoes and steamed carrots and green beans.

Margaret.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Preparing For COVID-19


It is time to be realistic.  For better or for worse COVID-19, the latest disease to strike the world, has generated near-mass panic and fear in people globally.

Even though there are still no confirmed cases of the virus within our country, there is still an impact being felt.  With the ban on entry into the country of people who have been in China, tourist numbers have been adversely affected and there have been job losses.  Universities are standing down staff as overseas students cannot enter the country.

Then there is the manufacturing side of things.  A lot of our goods are imported, and many of them come from China.  I made a routine visit to the Asian Supermarket this morning and noticed their stock was reduced by around a quarter (they usually have well-stocked shelves).  I then realised that, of course, there is no product arriving to replenish their sales.

Whether we agree with it or not, the possibility of being forced into lock-down is a very real possibility if the virus reaches our community.  So should we be taking precautions to be prepared for such an emergency?

Son and I have been discussing this and believe it would be prudent to make sure we at least have basic foodstuffs to see the three of us through several days.

We already have a good supply of canned food as New Zealand is prone to earthquakes and is home to twelve active volcanoes, meaning we need to be good citizens and BE PREPARED for any emergency that may occur.




For years now, I have labelled my cans with the month of purchase.  This enables rotation so that we don’t end up with a very old unusable can of food.  We only ever stock food that we normally use (even if it is not used that frequently, like evaporated milk), so rotation works well.




We try to have extra dry goods on hand as well, but our supply has dwindled.  This afternoon I am going to the supermarket specifically to restock this supply – I need rolled oats, Weetbix, rice, milk powder and salt.  We still have spare stores of flour, noodles and sugar, so they are not needed.

My list also has soap and disinfectant on it, both essential items for cleanliness and killing germs.  We always keep an unopened bottle of bleach in the laundry for use in disinfecting water if needed, and have means on hand for boiling water or cooking food in the event of a natural disaster.

I feel we are reasonably prepared, without becoming fanatical about it.

Hopefully there will be no forced quarantines, no community lock-downs, no panic buying at supermarkets, but it is probably prudent to be prepared.

Margaret.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Omokoroa


Omokoroa is a village that sits at the end of a peninsular jutting out into Tauranga Harbour in the Bay of Plenty.   The area was once covered with kiwifruit orchards but a lot of these have now given way to residential development.

At the tip of the peninsular lies Omokoroa Domain, a pleasant place for a quiet picnic and easy access to the beach.




Being harbour and not ocean, the beach is a safe place for children.  My husband’s family had a bach (small holiday home) here during the 1960s and he spent many happy hours on the beach searching for crabs and shells and learning how to swim.




The jetty was a favourite place to go fishing from.  Today it is the landing point for the car ferry that gives access to Matakana Island.




Looking out from Omokoroa, one can see Matakana Island with Mount Maunganui behind it.  This side of the island is harbour, but its far side is exposed to the Pacific Ocean.  The island itself has few inhabitants, and is mostly farmland and forestry blocks.




Great flocks of wild Black Swans descend on the mudflats at low tide to feed on crabs and small shellfish.  They are often joined here by Variable Oystercatchers and Blue Herons, and normally choose spots that are well away from the public.




At home today we have brooding cloud cover that is helping to keep the temperatures down a little bit.  We even had the slightest of precipitation, that could be felt on the skin but was not enough to wet the ground.  It is the perfect environment for flies, those horrid sticky ones that fly off and immediately return to annoy you again.

Stay happy!
Margaret.


LINKING UP WITH My Corner of the World

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Hot Air Ballooning


There were a couple of comments yesterday about going up in an hot air balloon, so I thought I might write about my one and only experience in doing so.


Me in the Basket

In 1996  my daughter and I helped out as volunteers at the local Balloon Festival.  We were detailed to be with the crew for a balloon from Japan, and as a result we were given the opportunity to go up in the balloon.

My trip was a very short one as we hardly rose up before coming back down to land.  There was some reason about winds or something, but I no longer remember the exact cause.

Inflating the balloon with helium

The two things I remember most were the absolute silence, except when the gas was released, and the gaps in the floor of the balloon’s basket.

The silence was incredible.  I think we often don’t realise how noisy our world is – even when we say it is quiet, there is still noise of wind or birds or insects around us (the sounds of silence!). 

Not being a great lover of heights, being able to see the ground between the gaps in the floor of the basket was rather unnerving to say the least.  I could look out from the basket as long as I held onto the edge – a false sense of security as I knew there was nothing to stop me from falling.

Mass ascension beside Hamilton Lake

When the balloon made a ‘proper’ flight, we would chase it in the van.  Once a safe location was found and the balloon had landed, we would arrive and help to pack everything up again.

Masahiko, our pilot, maneuvered the balloon into the trailer prior to deflating it 

Crewing for a hot-air balloon was hard work but a lot of fun.  Not something I could do now though!

Have you had any experiences with hot-air balloons?

Cheers,
Margaret.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Around Home


It is hot here again this afternoon, but thankfully inside the house is still reasonably comfortable.  We have near-cloudless blue skies and a slight breeze, and the cicadas are in full force with their discordant song.

Early morning was calm and clear, and we had yet another hot air balloon pass over the house.  I photographed it using my phone, so it appears to be further away than it actually was.




This morning was housework again – all the rooms tidied, floors vacuumed, dishwasher put on, laundry folded and put away, all those little things that join up together and keep the home running well.

Apart from the cicadas, we have a lot of noise around us today.  There is machinery working in the distance on the new road that is being made, there are builders next door working on our neighbour’s porch roof, and now I can hear what sounds like a concrete mixer although I cannot exactly pinpoint where it is.

Son has been making noise as well, and has made a new woodpile for our winter store of wood.  This will only be a temporary home, until a proper wood shed can be built (although that may be a job for next year!).




I have been ummming and aaarhing over whether to establish a vegetable garden or not.  We now have three flower gardens and several container plants but no designated vegetable garden.  The containers are easy to care for and the flower beds will be packed with plants to reduce weeding, but I’m not sure if I would have the time and energy to keep up with a vegetable garden.

Anyway, son has agreed to give me an area of land for a twelve months trial to see how I go with it.  If it works, well and good.  If it doesn’t, then it will be fairly easy to return the area to lawn again.


This wall will be along one edge of my new garden


I have always had a vegetable garden, and I miss having fresh herbs and cut-and-come-again vegetables to harvest when wanted.


My garden in 2006 - the shelter on the right was used as a potting shed

There is something deeply satisfying about eating your own produce and being able to put excess down into storage.  Not that I will be growing enough here to have an excess!

Enjoy your day,

Margaret.


LINKED TO Our World Tuesday



Monday, 24 February 2020

We Have Sunshine!


Today the sun is back in full force.  On Saturday we had a few lovely showers and yesterday (Sunday) we had two late afternoon thunderstorms that came through close together.  

Son checked the soil moisture this morning and it was damp for only a few bare millimetres.  We still need some prolonged gentle rain to recover from this spell of drought.

I could hear thunder rolling around when I took this photo

Today the skies are blue, the sun is shining, there is no wind, and it is getting too hot to be outside again. 


Back to blue skies

The hanging baskets are about at their end now and will need to be replanted for winter – I thought maybe violas would look nice. 

I was happy to see that the tuberous begonia in its wall pot is now finally beginning to flower.


Tuberous begonia 

Most of yesterday was spent with a trip to Auckland to visit a relation.  It was a pleasant drive up to the city and took me about two hours to reach my destination.

Coming home took me nearly 30 minutes longer.  The traffic was bumper to bumper on some parts of the Southern Motorway and Waikato Expressway, mostly due to roadwork disruptions and every man and his dog deciding to go out for a drive. 

A new section of highway that will improve things dramatically has now been officially opened – but is not yet open to traffic to use.  There was some excuse about needing to finish a crash barrier, but a lot of people are finding it ridiculous to open a road before it is open.

Today I am recuperating!  A long day seems to leave me tired these days, but I have still managed to do what housework needed doing (cleaned bathroom, washed towels, tidied kitchen etc.) but decided I will leave the floors until tomorrow.  They are not going anywhere!


Son found a new Paper Wasp nest by the compost heap

I am enjoying reading more of Gayelord Hauser’s Look Younger Live Longer.  As a consequence I have dragged the juicer out of the cupboard and had a lovely juice with my avocado and salad lunch.


Juicer and juice

I used several carrots, a long stalk of celery, one apple, and a large piece of ginger.  The ginger was a little overpowering – I used too much – but the juice was still very enjoyable.

There is a pineapple sitting on the bench, so I will chop that up later and may have some pineapple and celery juice before dinner.

It is son’s turn to make dinner tonight and I believe we are having nachos, so a juicy appetizer might be quite nice.

Cheers everyone J
Margaret.


Saturday, 22 February 2020

We Have Rain!


The forecast rain system has arrived and given our dry soil a much needed drink.  Not lots of rain but some good heavy showers have been passing through.  Tomorrow is meant to be sunny again so I am enjoying the slightly cooler temperatures the rain has brought with it.


The first large splots of welcome rain


The sun has only peeped through a couple of times, with the skies being mostly dark and overcast. 




I like to stand in the door and watch the rain and breathe in deeply of that earthy fresh smell that happens only when dry ground is first drenched with rain.




I was writing an email to my daughter this morning while sitting on my bed when Mittens came racing into the room and joined me – complete with her dirty wet paws and belly.  My clean bedspread now has grubby paw prints dotted over it, so I wasn’t that happy with her enthusiasm in greeting me.




The rain has a downside that we will have to rectify before winter arrives – water seeps into the connector box on our TV aerial and I lose reception on around half of the available Freeview channels available. 

This afternoon I have been watching Eat Well For Less and learning about the high fat content in most takeaway foods.  It is most annoying when suddenly the screen goes black with a message saying I need to check the connection!

The joys of modern living J
Hope everyone is having a great day,
Margaret.

Friday, 21 February 2020

A Morning of Shopping


This afternoon our temperature has climbed back up into the late 20s so I am glad I did my shopping earlier in the day.

Down the road I was thrilled to see Californian Quail feeding on the roadside.  We have heard them calling but this is the first time I have seen them in this area.




My first stop was at the Herbal Dispensary.  There are not many of these shops around, and we are fortunate to have one located in Hamilton.

I bought some dried oatstraw to make a tisane with, as well as a bottle of Echinacea Root tincture.  They make this tincture themselves and only use two year old roots, so I know it is one of the best around.




Echinacea purpurea is sometimes known as Purple Coneflower and can be used as a medicinal herb to help strengthen the immune system, the roots being the most effective parts of the plant.

It can be used in the treatment of many infections, its action on the body being generally classed as anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial.  The tincture tastes disgusting and leaves an unpleasant tingling in the mouth – but when my body is fighting something, I’ve found this tincture will help me rapidly overcome it.


Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower)


From the Dispensary I travelled to the garden centre and bought a dahlia, some spring bulbs (anemone, ranunculus, Dutch iris and hyacinths) and several annuals to plant out in the garden.   The dahlia is in flower but I am hoping it will transplant alright.  It seems these days that plants do not sell unless they are flowering.


A visit to the supermarket was my last stop, and then home again to find that the mail had brought me a book I ordered recently – Look Younger Live Longer by Gayelord Hauser (published 1960).  He was a popular nutritionist in his day and this book deals with how to remain healthy (and beautiful!) as one ages in years.  I used to own it and another of his books many years ago, but they had long since become victims of one of my major book decluttering sessions.

I have had a quick peek through the pages and most of the information still seems reasonably up-to-date, although the “super foods” he talks about have changed a bit with fashion.





I find I have so many gorgeous sky photos that I thought I would start a weekly posting of them, to link up with Skywatch Friday

* * * * * * *

SPECTACULAR SKIES
This week’s Spectacular Skies photo is of a sunrise, photographed at 6am from the beach at Papamoa in 2010.  I love the way the sunlight is spilling forth from the gap in the clouds.


Have a great day,

Margaret.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Silica Rapids Walk


On Mt Ruapehu (in the central North Island) there is a 4.7 km round-trip to visit the Silica Rapids.  My daughter and I made this walk in the autumn of 2006.




Some of the track leads through patches of native bush.




This area with its swampy seepage ponds reminded me of some scenes in the Lord Of The Rings movies.




There is a lookout over the silica rapids.  The creamy-coloured deposits in the rapids are caused by aluminosilicate in the water.  The reddish orange on the rocks is caused by iron oxide.




Some of the walk is on hilly terrain (it is a mountain, after all!) and these steps lead down into and over the Tawhainui Stream Gorge.




Another stretch of boardwalk led across more swampy land, before the track joined the road and headed back down to the Chateau where the walk had begun.




Apart from the rain that dogged us, this was a most enjoyable walk.  There is something special about getting up into hills at higher altitudes – must be some of my Scottish Highlander ancestry making itself felt!

There are scattered showers floating around our city today.  So far all we have had at home here is a couple of minutes of very light rain at 10am, but that is better than nothing and I know other places have had more.  I hope some of the drought areas are receiving some of it.

Margaret.


LINKED TO My Corner of the World

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Emma, the Movie


The weather has changed!  This afternoon we have full cloud cover, with rain clouds showing in places, but it is yet to rain.  The temperature is oppressive, with no wind, but we are forecast a 40% chance of rain in the next couple of hours.  Here’s hoping!

On Tuesdays one of our local cinemas has a discount day for movies, so I went along this morning and saw Emma.




I know other movies have been made of this Jane Austen classic, and I have seen most of them, but I still enjoyed this one even with its few modern twists (such as getting a blood nose when proposed to!). 

It is a lovely story and the clothes and home dรฉcor are always a joy to see. 

There is nothing more annoying than reaching a critical part of a movie and having someone’s phone begin ringing!  Being a good citizen, I had my phone sound turned off throughout the movie, and then received several messages when I turned it on again. 

One message was from my daughter.  I am so glad we have technology in our lives and we can text each other in an instant over a distance of thousands of miles.  I shudder to think how families coped when the only contact between countries was mail via a three month journey on board a ship.  No wonder they looked forward to receiving letters!

With the movie finishing at lunchtime, I went to the foodcourt at the shopping centre to treat myself to some lunch.  The cafรฉ had no sandwiches, one expensive dried-up meat pie, and lots and lots of cakes.  No.  The sushi shop sold each piece separately and had them all sitting out in the open.  No.  The roast shop (they make meals but also nice sandwiches) never came to serve me even though I stood there some minutes.  No.  In the end, I went to good old faithful McDonalds and bought a quarter-pounder burger.  No waiting, no fuss, and I knew exactly what I was getting even if it was not exactly what I wanted.

Stopped off to buy petrol on my way home.  It was still $2.02 per litre, when I thought it might have come down in price a little as they have been saying on the news that it was meant to drop.  Maybe it had been dearer but I hadn’t bought any (it was this price two weeks ago when I last filled up my car).

I was nearly home when son rang to see if I could collect grand-daughter from school as she was not feeling well (son was at work), so turned around and went back into town to meet her.

All morning I had been noticing a lot of Police cars around the city, and on our way home we passed two with their lights flashing and people being spoken  to.  One was outside the local shops, the other outside our local dairy, and son said they saw one this morning outside a house in a neighbouring street.  Makes one wonder what has been going on.  In total I saw ten marked Police cars this morning, plus two ambulances.  Most unusual.

Fingers crossed now that we will get some much needed rain.

Margaret.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

An Illustrated Nature Diary


I have not done much reading during February so far, but last night I finished reading Elaine Powers’ Living Garden:  An Illustrated Nature Diary.  It was written and illustrated by Elaine Powers, a distinguished New Zealand natural history artist.




Her diary covers natural history observations she made in the environment of her large garden from the spring of 1982 to winter of 1983, and the book includes a comprehensive appendix with details of the different species that were sighted (mostly birds and insects).




I found it intriguing to read as many species she mentions used to be quite common but are now much harder to find.   For instance, katydids, huhu beetles, stick insects, and frogs, that were all abundant in my childhood, are all creatures that I’ve not seen now for several years. 


Today began rather cloudy but that is now breaking up and we are getting increasing patches of bright sunlight to help our temperatures reach the late 20s again.  We also have a blustery wind which is more annoying than useful.


There is still no rain in our forecast and I was surprised to see that the fireworks display scheduled for last night was allowed to go ahead.  It kicked off with a massive boom, a bit like cannon fire, and lasted for a full five minutes.  Grand-daughter and I watched from a bedroom window and it was a magnificent display.   Very pretty, but I still think it was a bit of a fire risk – thankfully I was proved wrong!


I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend,
Margaret.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Polluting Our Environment


The Firth of Thames is about two hours drive away from us and often plays host to visiting migrant birds as well as several local species of seabird.   When we have warm water temperatures combining with an excess of phosphorus and nitrogen (from agricultural run-off and urban waste water) the end result is algal bloom, which is now being thought responsible for the death of several Red Knot, Godwit and Wrybill birds in this area. 


Godwits at Omokoroa


Years ago we would gather shellfish (tuatua, pipi, Pacific rock oysters) in Tauranga Harbour and along the coastline of the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel Peninsular.  Now nearly every summer these waters suffer algal bloom issues and it is no longer safe to eat the shellfish.  Part of the problem here is the huge growth of Tauranga Port with a constant stream of ships entering and leaving, resulting in a lot more waste being dropped into the surrounding ocean.


Pacific rock oysters, gathered off mudflat mangroves


Nature has a miraculous way of recovering if it is given a chance.  This was demonstrated after the Rena oil disaster off the coast of Papamoa in 2011.  The area was closed to fishermen for several years and many fish species were able to regenerate undisturbed in the vicinity of the wreck.  They thrived, and some species returned after years of absence.  When fishing was allowed again, the area was decimated within three months!  Really, what are we doing to the world we live in?


Oil washing ashore at Papamoa in 2011


At home here in Hamilton, all our drinking water is obtained from the Waikato River.  During the 1980s (so long ago!) I was able to visit a water treatment station and was frankly horrified to see how filthy this water was before it was treated. 


The Waikato River, near Arapuni


I believe the water quality has improved since then, through strict regulation, but it has not returned to the pristine quality it used to have – I spoke with an old Maori gentleman at Huntly (further down the river) many years ago and he told me how they used to swim across the river as children and you could see the bottom of it the whole way across.


Pollution is not new - this photo was taken in 1983

I guess it is a bit idealistic to expect our environment to be free of pollution.  We live in an industrial world after all, and mankind seems bent on destroying his world.  Even outer space is filling up with debris. 

It is all very well to say we should do our bit on a personal basis (and we should) but it is mostly a band-aid on a much deeper global problem that appears to have no easy answer.

Sorry if this is a bit of a dismal post, but these things are having a serious impact on the world we live in.  Happier things tomorrow :)


Margaret.