You know we’ve finally reached Spring when:
Here in New Zealand, the seasons officially start on the 1st of the month rather than on the equinoxes and solstices on the 21st like we were accustomed to in the U.S. So Spring starts September 1, Summer December 1, Fall March 1, and Winter on June 1. Over the last few years that we’ve been here, we’ve kind of made fun of this ‘cute’ provincial custom, often raising an eyebrow with other expats in that ‘we know better’ kind of way.
However, I’m a convert now. For on September 1st, right on schedule, the weather shifted. The sun came out and has stayed out for many days in a row! The temperature warmed up significantly and we had many balmy clear days with temps hovering and hitting 20C (63 – 68F). Two whole nights were warm enough where I didn’t have to sleep with my hottie. And the daffodils, by the hundreds, sprung up around the property in Wainui regaling their golden blooms upon us. One cannot help but be more cheerful when surrounded by this massive floral display.
I’m in awe at how quickly the trees budded and bloomed. Within three weeks, our majestic pear tree went from looking like a decrepit old man, all bony and bare, to a blossoming young maiden, offering up a bounty of white virginal blooms attracting hundreds of suitors – our bees. Our young quince and apricot trees also opened right up, the latter’s blooms attracting the kereru (wood pigeons) who enjoy the sweet nectar and who all but decimated the apricots by eating all the blooms! Next year – bird netting!
We managed to log 16 days in Wainui this month and it continues to more and more feel like ‘home’ – the place where we spend most of our time and entertain friends and visitors. Friends Briar and Fletch came out to visit on separate occasions. Fletch was a champ and helped us with some digging projects, turfing some grass which we’re converting into a vegetable garden bed in something like 15 minutes (a task that would have taken me at least two hours)! Good friend Briar, whom we hadn’t spent any significant time with in over a year, found three whole days to stay with us. It was really wonderful to re-connect with her and remember why we value each other so highly. Briar brought out her overlocker and we did some sewing projects together. Ah, the overlocker – a wonderful machine that makes sewing so much more faster and easier, often cutting down the time it takes to sew a garment by 50% or more! But they don’t come cheap and the low-end machines easily range in the high hundreds of dollars.
We also had a new friend over, Lawson, who is the director of Christ College of Trans-Himalayan Wisdom, the place in Akaroa where we go for full moon meditations. We’ve managed to get over there three times now, and during our September visit, Lawson indicated he’d like to come over and see our place some time. On a stunningly beautiful morning during Briar’s stay, he came out and we all sat on the deck enjoying homemade zucchini bread and bran muffins while chatting for a few hours getting to know each other. Lawson’s an American ex-pat having emigrated to New Zealand in the 1970’s from Minnesota. An open-minded, 65 year-old, alternative-type just like us, he’s a keeper and someone to add into the friend pool. Funny as heck, he entertained us with his jaw-dropping tales of emigrating into Aotearoa waaaaaay back before the time of internet communication!
We also embarked upon a search for a new architect to assist us with our new plans for renovating and extending the Wainui house. We were specifically looking for an ‘eco’ architect, and one who’d been in the business here in New Zealand for a number of years and who came to the table with knowledge of local resources and regulations. We approached four, and only two had the courtesy of responding to us. Of the two we talked with, one was Ebode/Heritage Design Group out of Auckland and the other was Solarchitect of Christchurch. I approached Ebode because I really liked their philosophy and cutting edge house designs. The downside with them was that their expertise was almost all centered in the Auckland region which does have a very different climate than the south island. However, we had several hours of phone meetings with them and valued their thoughts and insight. Russell Devlin of Solarchitect is someone we’d seen give a talk at a Home Show a few years ago. We popped in to see him in his Christchurch office, bringing along some photos of the house and a two-page ‘requirements’ write up on what we wanted to achieve. We liked his sort of holistic approach towards the project and us. We immediately scheduled him for a site visit as we wanted him to see the property and give us his gut feel of whether we were in the ballpark of thinking that $2500 per m2 or $250,000 – $300,000 was doable as our budget for adding 100 m2 (about 1100 sq. ft) of living space to the house. On another fine and glorious day, Russell came out and spent a few hours with us. Unfortunately the answer to our question was ‘it depends, but yeah probably, but you won’t know until you take the first step and start working on concept designs’ (A $3200 non-refundable commitment by the way). Fair enough. We swallowed hard, had a think over the weekend, and decided to seize the day! We signed the contract, sent in a deposit, and in a few weeks, he’ll be back out at the property where we’ll spend a good portion of the day knocking around ideas. Bring it on!
It’s been a busy time in the garden too. We had a 60%’ish successful germination rate from the seed sowing we did last month, our biggest success being the brassicas. We have tons of kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and silverbeet seedlings doing quite well. The lettuces, a few tomatoes, borage, fennel, chamomile, and a variety of flowers have also come in. The seedlings will stay in their trays for at least another month before being planted out in the new veggie beds we’re working on. We’ve also planted out potatoes and planted close to a dozen red and black currant cuttings which friend Gen gave to us. Mmmmm, currants are awesome and are rich in Vitamin C. Birds love them just as much as humans so it will be a challenge to harvest them. More bird netting is in our future. The broad beans which we planted in April are doing really well. They’re about 2 feet tall and full of blooms. Broad beans are pollinated by bumble bees which we have plenty of, though I tend to see them everywhere else but by the broad bean patch, so it remains to be seen whether we’ll get a crop from them yet. Various wild lettuces such as Miner’s Lettuce and Chickweed have flourished this winter and we’re starting to enjoy many fresh salads after a dearth of greens during winter. (A great book on edible weeds, btw, is Susan Weed’s “Healing Wise“)
And it’s mowing and mulching time again. I’d forgotten during the 4-month dormancy stage just how much work it is to mow around the property. But it’s a good workout I tell myself, so I don’t mind all that much. But the first mow of the season is a hard one as the grass is many places is over 7” tall which makes for slower mowing. I spent a good portion of a day in the gully, digging up thistle and mulching trees and I came upon a set of five white-flowering young trees. I’ve still been working on trying to identify where the former owners planted the 198 trees they put in over their tenure on the property. They’d left us a list of their botanical names and we’ve done a little research on their physical qualities and properties. Many have eluded us since the majority of them are not marked. However, the spring blossoms gave these away and what I discovered was the amelanchier canadensis, or shadbush, which produces edible blue berries in summer.
Back on the housing front, we have yet to sell our Christchurch home though we’ve had several parties come to view it. We’ve now stepped up our marketing again and will be placing ads in the local realtor magazines for the next month. We’re keeping fingers crossed that buyers will come out of their winter hibernation and that the perfect new owner for Clyde Road will soon be found!
And that about sums up our month. We’ve shifted into Daylight Savings Time, springing forward an hour. The days are getting longer; dusk is not upon us till well after 7 pm. People are out and about; everyone seems happier.
Spring has sprung! (What’s also sprung are the little lambs making for some traffic jams as mom and babes sneak out of their paddocks in search of greener pastures!)