Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Road to Motueka + Possum Man

Here's a campground in Murchison that's been beautifully landscaped. It also had a kitchen with a wood stove, a gentle heat keeping it cozy at night for eating or washing up. Plus fresh eggs provided by chooks roaming about the grounds.

Yesterday we embarked on a favorite drive, heading northwest to Motueka/Nelson. The last leg traverses some deeply fertile ground where all manner of crops are grown, from grapes to fruit trees. On the left here is structure for hops, a burgeoning industry that got an infusion of $20 million over the last few years to meet the demand for craft beer makings. Click here for more.

Motueka River.

Here's the route (click here to view if reading in email):
It was a stunning day, the air full of spring and buds everywhere ready to explode.

Recently a dear friend (hi Heather!) asked me to describe the oddest character we met this month. The next series of pictures should qualify as the answer, I think, someone we ran into on a walk in Motueka yesterday.

You know you've been in NZ too long when this image doesn't surprise you. A basketful of dead possum--look how massive their bodies and legs (and tails). A scourge on the NZ environment, they can weigh up to 11 pounds.

Leaves are the main part of their diet, but possums are opportunistic omnivores. They eat buds, flowers, fruit/berries and nectar, which means they compete with native birds and reptiles for food sources. The growth and life-cycle of a tree or plant is significantly affected when all parts of it are eaten. Possums also have ‘favourites’ such as rātā or kamahi trees, leading to an even greater impact on these species. 

The common brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula, was first introduced to New Zealand from Australia in 1837 to establish a fur trade. This release was unsuccessful and a second release 20 years later at the same Southland location was required for them to establish. 

There were a couple of young guys hanging around this truck with the POSUUM plates (and the dead possum on a trailer with a quad bike), clearly devotees. I put forth my possum sweater-clad arm and said how much we loved our possum clothing. The kids were immediately engaged, excited to see us wearing this fur and telling us: he's famous, is Possum Man. He's on TV.

When I finally spoke to Possum Man I naturally asked about the 1080 poison the Dept Of Conservation drops to kills possum (and birds, deer, and bees etc). I asked why DOC didn't just put a bounty on possums--why do they poison everything instead?

"Because they're idiots," Possum Man said concisely (and perhaps predictably), peering out in a late-afternoon sun that wrecked my picture of him.

The spring equinox is due in a few days and it's a delight to be here for it, though still challenging to remember spring happens in September (What month is is now? I'm constantly asking Art).

When we leave Chicago in March, spring is still just a promise. We arrive to NZ autumn, often in the 80F range. Then comes the mostly mild NZ winter and now the frosting on the cake.

Birdsong fills the days and evenings.

And every tree, shrub, and flower bed appears to have been painted on.

We're at the top of the South Island, an extremely temperate part of NZ.

NZ flax, variegated and not

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