Posts Tagged ‘nature’

I just finished reading, Woman in the Wilderness by Miriam Lancewood. She’s Dutch and she lives a nomadic lifestyle in the wilderness areas of New Zealand with her husband. They spend months at a time sleeping in tents and huts, cooking on an open fire and hunting and gathering. They eat mostly dried beans, lentils, rice, fire baked bread, along with meat they kill. There are lots of introduced species in NZ that they hunt such as possums, rabbits, goats, deer, etc. They come out to restock supplies in town. They live off the interest produced by their small but sufficient savings. I found the book very fascinating and it has reminded me to enjoy the small things, slow down, look for beauty everywhere, and to spend more time in nature. 

So, this morning Boy and I drove out to the Pahongina Valley just north of us and walked the Kahikatea loop track. It’s a 1km track through NZ native bush with some Kahikatea trees. These trees were harvested in the early 1900s to be used as butter boxes to transport New Zealand butter to the UK, as the wood didn’t taint the butter and other wood did. There are not very many trees left, but there are some and they are the tallest growing trees in NZ. 

Boy enjoyed the walk, but he was a little unsure as he kept turning around in the beginning saying ‘Car? car?’ I’d like to take him on more walks like that more often. I wonder if he thought we weren’t coming back. He loves walks around the farm and could easily spend more time than we did outside, but it was a different setting than he was used to. Below are some photos we took and some things we took back with us. 


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I’ve got another two comparisons ready for Miss! or THIS!

First is the water situation that I have noticed in New Zealand. In the States, you can count on their being a drinking fountain in just about every public venue. Not the case in New Zealand. If you want water, you better bring your own, or bring money to buy your own. Finding a drinking fountain out side a bathroom is a rare and glorious thing here. Strangely, I have yet to buy a proper drink bottle to carry my needed hydration and try to fill up before I leave the house. Oh yes, and reusable water bottles are called ‘drink bottles’ quite often here.

The thing that I’ve noticed that they do have though is nearly every single toilet I have seen during my month stay in New Zealand has two buttons on it. No handle, but a duo button. If you have traveled through Chicago and stopped at one of the Oasis rest stops you may be familiar with the function. Press the special handle up and you get half a flush; press the handle down, and you get a full flush. Same function here. There is a half flush and full flush button.

Both of these differences probably save the country a lot of water. New Zealand is rather environmentally conscious. I personally don’t think I could choose between these two things. I would want both.

One thing I found kind of awkward at first, and still stumble over it sometimes, is that if you need to relieve yourself, it isn’t very common that people will say, ‘I need to use the restroom, or bathroom’, They will say, ‘I need to use the toilet’, or ‘Where is the toilet?’ Personally, I find this a bit blunt. Of course what I really want when I go to the restroom, is the toilet. But, I don’t want to announce to the world that I will actually be using one. I like to keep it a bit more ambiguous. But, if you say restroom or bathroom here, it will be taken as such, a bathroom is for taking a bath, and a restroom, is well… it doesn’t really may sense.

drinking fountain vs two flush toilet

Another difference here is the fashion of how Christmas is celebrated. I am accustomed to having Christmas with snow, and cold, and early evenings. This can be very beautiful, but I’m usually ready for the snow to be gone after New Years. So, I kind of like the difference found here. Last week I went with some friends to see some houses lit up for the holidays and got to walk through their twinkly garden in full bloom. It does seem a bit strange to have the iconic Christmas decorations strewn about with their snow-ready gear, amidst the greenery and warm weather. I don’t really like the commercial aspect of this, but I do greatly appreciate the nice weather.

New Zealanders associate Christmas with having a Barbie (Barbecue) and going to the beach, swimming, and spending time out in the sun with shades and sun hats. It’s summer after all. I even saw some wrapping paper that had the words, ‘Christmas, Summer, Beach, Fun,’ written all over it. It’s kind of interesting. We’ll see how much I like this difference when winter comes around and there is nothing to celebrate during the deary darkness and cold. I will have my birthday at least.

christmas in winter versus summer

We also have what is called the New Zealand Christmas tree, or Pohutukawa tree, which is an actual living tree that is native to New Zealand. It blooms in December and people often will say something like, “The Pohutukawa’s are blooming early this year. We’re going to have a nice summer.” When in full bloom the tree is absolutely gorgeous!

Pohutukawa Tree

Pohutukawa Flower

I’ve been taking full advantage of the nice weather and the holidays. Last weekend I went up with friends to see the wind farm that is iconic for Palmy. Also, Yesterday I went swimming at a river near here with some friends and had so much fun. I even tried some cliff jumping. 🙂 As last time, be sure to click the lower right hand corner to view the video as full screen and then press escape to return to normal once it’s finished.

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This is the first post of many from a new installment to the blog. In ‘Miss?… or THIS!’ I will be examining things that I have noticed to be missing in New Zealand and that I very well may miss and then looking to see what similar things I’ve found while in the country that I find to be similar to the things that are missing.

I know the title may sound a bit cheesy… but I thought it would be fun. 🙂

So, our first missing item in New Zealand is not really completely gone, but are very sparse and are so hugely replaced by something else that I thought I had to include them here. They are dandelions. In the midwest, dandelions are vehemently present in many lawns. I personally think, and always have, that they are a beautiful addition to springtime and summer. This is to the chagrin of my grade-school teachers years ago, when I would collect them and blow their seeds all about the school property, perpetually continuing the saga of dandelion ancestry into the future.

Well, I have seen a few lonely dandelions hiding here and there, but they are completely superseded by… daisies! Oh the joy… For little daisies are far more whimsical that dandelions. I made a comment about them to my house mate the other day and found that they are similarly overlooked as an uneventful weed, being mowed over as quickly as possible when trying to make a good impression. But I still love them, and am thankful to see them everyday. It would be a hard choice to pick only one of the two, but I think I’d have to go with the more whimsical daisy.

Another item that is missing from New Zealand are Robins. Robins are the friendly birds of summer, with their characteristic song heard first in the early morning hours. I miss their red bellies and their cheeky disposition.

While the bird that most closely reminds me of Robins are not actually native to New Zealand, I hadn’t really thought about the Robin being missing until I noticed the behavior of these creatures. They are simple black birds, native to Europe. They are not like any black bird I’ve seen in the US though. They are fatter and are just as cheeky as any Robin. They hop about, looking for worms. The males are black  orange beaks and with a yellowish orange color around their eyes, while the females are a dark dingy brown with a faint speckling on their breast. I was watching one the other day from my bedroom window. She was sitting on the fence looking about when all of a sudden, she flew up and out, right into the window! It gave me quite the startle. She was fine, flying back to her perch on the fence, but I wonder what she had been thinking when she did that, because she clearly should have seen me in the room. I’ll never know… Anyway, I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing Robins, despite their possible New Zealand counterpart.

Another bird that is not native to New Zealand that is living in my backyard is the Welcome Swallow. There is a family of them that like to sit out on the laundry line, waiting to be fed by their parents. They are so adorable, with their wobbly countenance.

Most of the birds I’ve seen are not native to New Zealand. I hope to see some natives soon.

To wrap up this post, I would just like to say, please check out the new pictures I’ve posted. Just click the ‘more photos’ on the right hand side of this blog, (after you click the title if reading this in an email). Some things that I’ve done since I’ve been here are:

1. Drive a stick shift car, on the left side of the road, only being honked at once and stalling about 20 times. (I’m learning! there is progress…)

2. Went grocery shopping. Things are more expensive here, but not too bad. Thinking in dollars per kilogram is interesting…

3. Found an ‘op shop’ (second hand store in NZ) that was actually called ‘goodwill’ and bought a delightful navy skirt for $5 ($4.11 US)

4. Purchased a sewing machine for $120 ($100 US) on Trademe, which is a NZ version of Ebay.

5. Planted two tomato (pronounced tom-ah-to here) plants and some parsley plants.

6. Got a library card and checked out three books.

7. Set up a mobile phone with a great summer deal they are doing right now.

8. Dried my laundry on the line.

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I finally was able to purchase a ticket for my trip. My plane leaves Sunday the 18th at 3:29 pm and arrives in Palmerston North New Zealand at 11:00 am on Tuesday the 20th. Total flight time is about 24 hours. To figure out what time it is in New Zealand, just look at the weather located on the right side of this blog. (This only shows up after your click title of the post if you received this as an email) Or, you can just subtract 6 hours (5 if in Central Time Zone) and then add a day. New Zealand is 18 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

I think I created this video back in August. It’s been so long, I can’t even remember. But, I can finally show it to you now! I’m very excited. The video lists a few names at the end, which are those who helped make the video. If you wish to contact me in an email instead of in a comment to this blog, you can send me an email here: katherinejustine (at) hotmail.com.

It’s almost unreal, that I’m finally leaving. I kept setting dates in my mind for when I’d be gone, so it almost feels strange to actually leave! One aspect of expecting to leave for so long and then repeatedly having to wait longer, is that I feel that culture shock will possibly be a bit less. I might be completely wrong and receive a wake up call when the shock sets in. But, I feel as if I’ve been learning about and thinking about what it will be like for so long, that the novelty has worn off in a sense. We will see.

Hoorah hoorah! I’m finally off! 🙂 I am thankful to God for His timing, as there are probably reasons for the delay.

If you would like to see a video of what it’s like to fly over New Zealand, I’ve linked to one here. You can also click the Awesome Box on the right (if you are reading this in an email, just click the title of this post to find the Awesome Box)

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So, I realize that I initially said I was going to post about once a month. However, this may change to more frequent posts, especially during my first couple of months in the country. I hope this does not make you feel overwhelmed or bored.

I’ve been thinking of ways to implement an educational aspect into my blog, as most people don’t know very much about New Zealand. Thus the ‘Trivia New Zealand’ title. Each Trivia installment will cover a different topic. Obviously, I will eventually run out of topics and the trivia will have to end, so I’d like to spread these out over a bit of time. I have several ideas for topics, but please do comment and ask for something in particular if you want! I love new ideas.

So, today’s trivia topic is: Weather! Enjoy…

  1. In New Zealand, summer is December – February
  2. Winter is June – August
  3. The average maximum temperature is 20-30 ºC/ 68-86 ºF
  4. The average minimum temperature is 10-15-ºC/ 50-60º F.
  5. Due to the moderating effect of the ocean, summer and winter temperatures in most NZ locations differ by less than 10 ºC.
  6. New Zealand weather can change unexpectedly. The locals joke about having four seasons in one day.
  7. Wellington, the country’s capital, gets more wind that the ‘windy city’ of Chicago!
  8. New Zealand experiences relatively little air pollution. This and the country’s proximity to the ozone hole over Antarctica makes UV rays very strong.
  9. New Zealand receives over 2000 hours of sunshine a year
  10. New Zealand gets more rainfall during the winter in the north, and more rainfall during the summer in the south.
  11. On Average, New Zealand receives about 24-63 inches of rain annually, with some mountainous coastal areas receiving around 400 inches per year!
  12. All this rain makes New Zealand an ideal place for farming and agriculture.
  13. Snow can appear from June – October with most falling in the mountains. Some inland areas in the south receive heavier snow as well.
  14. Snow rarely falls in the coastal areas, with the exception of the South Island’s east coast. See Dunedin on the map.
  15. New Zealand has every climate in the world. The following pictures give a taste to the diverse climates found there. Click each picture to enlarge.

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This morning I awoke to the sound of a crying baby.

Not a human baby, but a crow baby.

I remember watching a nature show a while back about crows and one thing I learned is that young crows stay with their parents about 5 years before they go off on their own. The reason for this is the birds intelligence. There is so much for them to learn before being an adult crow that they stay with mom and dad. They have quite the social system too and can even communicate to each other about the things around them.

I think this is quite amazing and saw proof of this to a degree this morning. My alarm this morning sounded like a high pitched crow caw-ing away. There were three of them, all near the corn cob stuck out side my window in a tree.  The youngster, was bellowing for his parents to feed him something, crying, and shaking his wings in urgency to his empty belly. Most of his attention was to only one of the parents, but both were there, sticking together as they ate their own corn. The young one flew from parent to parent, begging with demanding gestures to be fed. The parents continually ignored him and instead of feeding him, pecked at their own corn, cracking it open with their beaks and eating it without giving it to baby. The parent being pestered would fly away to a nearby tree occasionally from annoyance but both youngster and second parent would follow.

The young crow was just being stubborn. His parents were showing him how to eat and he was fully capable, looking just as old as they, to feed himself. All he had to do was calm down and try it.

I find many lessons from this:

  1. Crows have tantrums too. It’s not wrong to feel that way sometimes.
  2. Crow parents know when to pull away and how to stop babying their children. They don’t give in to the yelling, but patiently and lovingly wait it out, encouraging the youngster to take care of himself.
  3. Crow parents stick together even when things get hard.

While crows are notorious for earning the reputation of a nuisance, I think we can take these lessons and apply them to our lives in some way. I’m so happy when God helps me learn from nature.

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Inquisitive Bird, Crooked Tree

Painting this picture was kind of therapeutic. I look at it as a self-portrait of sorts.

Check out my site about my back brace to straighten my spine here. (www.tostraightenthetree.wordpress.com)

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