Wednesday, July 26, 2017

New Zealand's ambitious plan to save birds: Kill every rat

Via The Telegraph...
New Zealand has set itself an environmental goal so ambitious it's been compared to putting a man on the moon: ridding the entire nation of every last rat, opossum and stoat.
Workers assemble resetting rat traps at the Goodnature factory in Wellington, New Zealand  
Credit: AP

The idea is to give a second chance to the distinctive birds that once ruled this South Pacific nation. When New Zealand split away from the supercontinent Gondwanaland 85 million years ago, predatory mammals hadn't evolved. That allowed birds to thrive. Some gave up flight altogether to strut about the forest floor.

Then humans arrived, bringing predators with them. Rats stowed away on ships. Settlers introduced opossums for the fur trade and weasel-like stoats to control rabbits. The pests destroyed forest habitats and feasted on the birds and their eggs. More than 40 species of birds died out and many others remain threatened, including the iconic kiwi...more here

Victorian Precinct in Oamaru


Oamaru is a quite the little NZ town. First, and we insist most important, it's home to Whitestone Cheese Co. This Moeraki Bay Blue is genius.

I sprinkled some on our beet-cauliflower-onion saute this morning for extra umami.

Oamaru is also home to a fantastic steampunk museum, which we toured in 2015, laughing happily all the way.

Next to our campground there's even a steampunk playground.

But the real treasure here might be the Victorian Precinct, where elegant warehouses, hotels, and commercial offices from the 1870s exist out of time, now protected by a trust. Built of locally quarried limestone, they house more than 50 businesses, many of them artists and artisans.

There's a working wool store and galleries and artist studios, a textile cooperative and pubs, cafes, and a boutique brewery.

 Here's a perfect lock-up for Art

 The studio of Donna Demente and oh how I wish she'd been open.

In a local crafts shop, a mash-up painting/photograph of the Victorian Precinct.

This hotel has an inviting pub there at the corner.

The precinct houses four second-hand book shops (and a book bindery), not all open today. Here's Slightly Foxed Secondhand Books and what a welcoming sit-down-and-read vibe it has.

Tidy shelves include many classics. Maybe I'll return for that John Steinbeck tomorrow.

This engaging gentleman was minding the shop today. He's lived a huge life, circumnavigating the globe in his boat and sailing the US Great Lakes and the waterways of Europe and South America. NZ authorities are now giving him hassle because they say he's too old to sail the Southern Ocean. (Oamaru is 45 degrees south, the latitude that defines the theoretical halfway point between the equator and the South Pole, roughly the start of the Southern Ocean. )

I wouldn't bet against him! He was reading this in the quiet of the store.

Art reads non-fiction, these days about NZ sheep stations

I read principally fiction (though much non-fiction online)

I've never read Joanna Trollope. This piece makes me think she's a nimble writer.

Much of the architecture here is attributed to Thomas Forrester (1838-1907):
While still in full time employment with the Harbour Board, for almost three decades from 1872 and in partnership with John Lemon, Forrester designed an impressive portfolio of ornately decorated buildings and family homes, contributing more than any other person to the distinctive architecture of Oamaru.

Sign outside a local cafe

Monday, July 24, 2017

To Oamaru

We drove north today to Oamaru, short on kilometers but long on views of the Otago Coast once we turned onto the Beach Road.

The receding waters of this week's record rains were apparent in a few spots, this one minor. In some places workers were still shoveling clumps of earth and grasses off the roadway.

Great swaths of the Pacific meet farms on this coast. Someone told us that in NZ you're never more than 100 km away from water and I believe it.

We're staying here, at a campground right on the harbor.

 A walk on the esplanade this afternoon.

 Late afternoon light on the harbor. Sleep well, campers...

Sunny Moeraki Day


We walked 9 miles yesterday round trip to the boulders, which are much closer than that if you take the beach. Remind me to tell you sometime about tide tables. On the walk back (partly on the shoulder of Highway 1), I saw sheep eating swedes.

Today was glorious, near 60 by Art's thermometer in the shade. It feels like spring. We set out on a walk after work and within the hour I'd shed my sweater.

Fleur's is closed today and tomorrow (probably a good thing!).

That NZ fur seal outside the restaurant was back basking in the sun, nose in a paua shell.

There's something about Moeraki that gets into your soul. It's easy to stay, and we've been here five days. Tomorrow we'll head north.

Our campground has some nice chickens roaming around. They sell these enormous (and truly free-range) eggs at reception.

 We stopped for a flat white at the only other restaurant in town, more of a tavern really.

This story in the Otago Daily Times made us chuckle...
A Mosgiel farmer had a "hilarious surprise" when he braved the storm to check on his stock.

Richard Horne said his father, Ferg Horne (64), was checking stock on his 16ha sheep and beef farmlet in Riccarton Rd on Saturday morning.

A flock of sheep, which  had found some higher ground in the flooded paddock, had some "weird black" objects  on them.

"He thought that’s a bit strange but he got closer and there were three rabbits sitting on the back of the sheep ...  he was surprised and thought it was hilarious." His father had been farming for nearly 40 years and had never seen anything like it, he said.

Wabbits on sheepback

Hannah and Logan made it here from Dunedin yesterday and we had a happy reunion over fish last night at Fleur's, catching up on our camping travels and theirs.

Every day's a good day

Saturday, July 22, 2017

More Rain...and More Good Food

After a full night of still more rain (and a several-hour power outage) the downpour stilled this afternoon, but reports up and down this east coast of the South Island have not been encouraging. In Oamaru (our next destination) the river breached and states of emergency were called in Dunedin and Timaru. Christchurch is in trouble too. These rains broke records for July.

Five inches in Oamaru in 26 hours

photos NZ Herald

 We decided to get out for a walk.

But it soon became apparent the walking path was either flooded or obliterated by slipping mud.

What else to do but head to Fleur's Place for a flat white. Fleur herself was concerned about the cancelled reservations for Saturday: a book club group of nine and many other tables. You begin to see how weather events--like the earthquake in Kaikoura last November--can decimate local businesses.

We decided we were hungry. I ordered a smoked eel terrine that was delicious.

Art has a tender venison casserole topped with mashed potatoes.

This NZ fur seal took up residence on the verge of the restaurant's water edge. I know it looks like a big dark rock, but it lifted its head and I saw its pointy nose, so I'm verifying.

We're lucky to be in a good campground with plenty of wi-fi for work in the coming days, situated across the road from a stunning restaurant. We don't have to travel.

Only downside is our NZ camping pals Hannah and Logan are stuck in Dunedin with some campervan problems. They were supposed to meet us here. It could still happen.

H+L on a brighter day in Wanaka