Amanda Giorgis

Who knew?

Who knew that in 1860 it cost £8 for a hogshead of beer in Canterbury, a swine could be yours for £2, or maybe a pound of salt for a shilling?

Who knew that over 48 inches of rain fell in New Zealand in 1860?

And, who knew that the country was divided into North Island and Middle Island at the time? I guess that made Stewart Island the South Island in those days!

Who knew that we couldn’t count the Maori population because :-

the Native Insurrection would have interposed during the last year almost insuperable difficulties in the way of any attempt to collect definite Statistical facts in some of the most important Maori Districts‘?

All this, and more can be found in the Statistics of New Zealand for 1860, an absolute treasure trove of information for those writing a book about the period!

 

Short Story Dispenser

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You can buy all sorts of things from vending machines these days, but Timaru Library brings us the only short story dispenser in New Zealand. Choose from a 1, 3 or 5 minute read. What a great idea!

Read the full story here – Timaru Library Short Story Dispenser

But, of course, if you prefer a longer read, why not buy The Wideawake Hat

All I Need To Know In Life I Learned From My Hens

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I came across this today – oh, so true. And Lily (above) agrees.

All I Need To Know In Life I Learned From My Hens – Anon

Wake up early, stay busy, rest when you need to, but always stay alert.
Visit your favorite places each day.
Scratch out a living.
Routine is good.
Plump is good.
Don’t ponder your purpose in life – your brain is too small.
Accept the pecking order and know your enemies.
Weed your garden.
Protect your children fiercely – sit on them if you need to.
Take them for walks, show them the little things and talk constantly.
Make a nice nest. Share it with friends.
Brag on your accomplishments.
Don’t count your chicks before they hatch.
Protect your nest egg.
Test your wings once in awhile.
Squawk when necessary.
As you age, demand respect.
Leave a little something for those who care about you.
Chase butterflies XX

South Island Kokako

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I’ve been writing about birdsong today. And it reminded me about the South Island Kokako. A real life treasure hunt, or should I say bird hunt?

There’s a kokako that lives up north. It was doing pretty badly but, by developing breeding programmes in places like Tiritiri Matangi, it is recovering quite well. It has bright blue wattles which Maori thought were bags to could carry water. It also has a beautiful and melodious song.

In the South Island, the kokako had orange wattles, and it too had a melodious song and feathers of great beauty. I say ‘had’ because the last sighting of the S.Island kokako was in 1907. Officially extinct. HOWEVER – there have been reported sightings over the last few years, mostly in the forests of the west coast. There is even a reward for the first official, ratified sighting.

I love a good mystery, and I live in hope that South Island kokako once again grace our forests in my lifetime.

Read more about the South Island Kokako

Photo credit – Original image of NI kokako by Tara Swan, creative touches by Oscar Thomas and Geoff Reid

Innoxious creatures

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From Te Ara – Hamish Foote, ‘Allegorical triumph of Sir George’ (2001)

The first New Zealand acclimatisation society probably started in Auckland in 1861. It was focused on introducing “all manner of new species as long as they were ‘innoxious’.”

Innoxious means harmless, and we all know now that the introduction of some species to New Zealand has been far from harmless to endemic species of flora and flora. But the introduction of such things as deer, chaffinches and skylarks was, in the main, to give settlers a reminder of home. In my research it seems to me that there were three kinds of acclimatisers. Those who just wanted to be reminded of home, surrounded by familiar sights and sounds. Those who saw it as God’s work to bring the superior creatures of their homeland to the heathen world – to improve on nature. And finally those who wanted to continue their country pursuits by releasing animals just for the purpose of then hunting them to death again. The first kind I can sympathise with – I miss robins too. The second, I can’t quite accept. Who are we to say that one creature is more superior than another? And the third, well I have never been a fan of guns for sport, let’s leave it at that!

In all cases the acclimatisers had the best of intentions. But what a different country we would call home if there were no rabbits to wreak havoc on our high country land, no gorse swamping our hillsides, no mustelids killing our ground-dwelling birds, no hedgehogs eating our native birds’ eggs.  (One day I will write a book about the demise of the Huia. It may have a happy ending).

Sometimes researching a new book can be tedious, but not in this case. I needed some facts to fit the story of Lucy’s creatures, brought from England in cages. Finches, larks, pheasants and doves. Lucy meets Basil Drummond, a local acclimatiser, and we have a taste of romance between them. But when Mr Drummond shows himself to be in the third group rather than the first, well, let’s just say there’s a falling out between them!

It has been fascinating. If you want to know more, try Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand – I kind of wish the zebras on Auckland streets had been a thing, though!

Look out for Lucy’s story in Book 2 of the Applecross Saga, ‘Shepherd’s Delight’. Due out in spring 2019.

Crack willow, Russel lupin, buddleia, alder, elderberry, cotoneaster, gooseberry, flowering currant, raspberry and hops

That title reads like a link to the local Garden Centre  – but no, this is the list of invasive weeds that will be targeted in the Hopkins River and Dobson Valley area on the western edge of the Mackenzie Basin. Whereas we would probably enjoy these plants in our gardens, they thrive in the wild and have the ability to affect the natural ecosystem in which they grow. None of these plants would have been here at the time that James and Sophia set up Applecross. Great to see they will be replanting with native species too.

Read more here :-

Bid to protect 40,000ha of South Island high country from invasive weeds

Hinewai

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If you’ve read the Prologue in The Wideawake Hat you would have met Hinewai, the maori girl who catches an eel for supper. Hinewai, who’s name means ‘water maiden’, we find out later, is Atewhai’s mother.

Hinewai is also the name of an ecological restoration project on Banks Peninsula, privately owned and managed by the Maurice White Native Forest Trust, but freely open the public on foot. It is a magical and beautiful place. Hinewai celebrates its 30th birthday this year and a film has been made to celebrate. I recommend it to you.

Fools & Dreamers is a 30-minute documentary telling the story of Hinewai Nature Reserve, on Canterbury’s Banks Peninsula, and its kaitiaki/manager of 30 years, botanist Hugh Wilson. We learn about the commitment of Hugh and the Maurice White Native Forest Trust to regenerate marginal, hilly farmland into native forest, using a minimal interference method that allows nature to do the work, giving life to over 1500 hectares of native forest, waterways, and the creatures that live within them.