Neither I nor our textile collection can stand much UV beaming directly into the house so this newly naked northern aspect needed something to replace the plum's generous shade. As a bonus, I now have a place to house the cacti and aloe oveflow from elsewhere as everything gets bigger.
You don't really think about that as you're amassing a collection of tiny little baby plants; the Aloe alooides in the centre of the above image used to fit in the palm of my hand. Now it could scoop the brains from ten craniums at once with its monstrous extremities, if it were so inclined. If you want to save yourself some hard choices, be wiser than me- take a rational moment in the midst of your compulsive acquisition to wonder about ultimate sizes and where all that arrant vegetation is going to live, long-term.
Half an acre and a knack for building awkward polycarbonate structures mean I can flip moderation the bird for a few more years. Here are some of the fruits of those happenings.
Various Rebutias, Lobivias and Sulcorebutias. I cannot be arsed trying to keep up with their highly mutable taxonomic nomenclature so they remain 'that purple/orange/yellow one' to me. Most are easy to both both acquire and cultivate, so if you're looking to get into cacti, you might as well start with these guys. The flowers are gorgeous and reliable, often repeating throughout the summer months. The pale crustiness you see on a few is supposedly spider mite damage, but it doesn't seem to affect them too much and we are anti-spray, except in the case of losing a valuable plant I couldn't replace (it hasn't happened yet). Mealy bugs are their worst enemies. I squish the bigger ones with tiny twigs and blast them off with a hose or camera-blower thingy.
Metrosideros 'Springfire', a nice little hybrid (?) Pohutukawa from somewhere in the general Pacific; I can't be more specific because every single fucking nursery claims it is something different, ranging from a true dwarf species to a hybrid larger tree. I'm not even sure this is Springfire since it seems to have lost most of its leafular waviness, but I'm enjoying the dangerous volume of that orange and the prospect of extended summer flowering. Bellbirds skulk around it furtively, defying my presence to get at the early nectar. We sincerely hope Myrtle Rust doesn't make it this far south and wipe out all our fantastic Myrtaceae specimens, as it has done in Australia.
Notice the ye olde wrought iron fence panel in the background- that's new too. We bought some online a while back that looked like they were probably yoinked out of some Victorian grave somewhere and painted them up to put up along the front garden. Hot tip: paint your rusty iron panels before you attach them to a fence over a 15 foot drop.
The waterlogged Sea Scouts barge was finally chainsawed into nothingness a month or so ago. RIP its rotten old timbers. We will miss its picturesque obsolescence.
Port's domestic structure is a whacky Victorian labyrinth of narrow little streets draped over the bulbous topography like a lace doily. Some are no more than lanes to this day, with mossy banks encroaching on their shitty tarmac and insufficient room for two cars to pass abreast. Frost can mean you slide backwards on the steep dips in the shade of the blobby ridge that runs lengthwise along the centre of the peninsula. It's about 60m above sea level according to topographic maps, but it feels much higher than this, as you can probably see. This represents yet another annoying discrepancy between my expectations and physical reality, so I just add another 200m or so in my mind in order to approach the preferred 300 m +/- range.
People have won presidential office with this kind of stuff, so I'm just waiting on the whole salary and acclaim package.
Bellbirds and Tuis rattle the dead branches of the blue gums as they clamber around them, looking for insects and shouting at each other; their language consists of fluting, bill clapping, cackling, sneezing, warbling, chiming and diving flights full of intimidating wing sounds like taffeta swooshed hard past your ear.
People dump their green waste in historically-designated slash unofficial middens on the side of the road, where it merges down into the tangled scrub below.
From Island Terrace, the view becomes quite bougie, almost Riviera. Well, it does if the fucking ugly Port Otago warehouse carbuncle is factored out. At the present time, these are mostly grotty yachts, which is not as pejorative as it sounds. They are the kind of hobby and old-school craft middle-aged people might remember their parents and grandparents owning, sitting quiescent for most of the year and puttering out into the greater harbour for a bit of fishing on summer weekends. A few people live on them semi-permanently but there's not really a huge culture of that here, probably because housing was cheap until recently. They are hauled up onto the tiny local winch dock for loving maintenance before being returned to their relatively affordable moorings.
It occurred to me the other day that the gentrification quickly gathering pace around Dunedin will sweep rich boaty twats and their launches into these scenes in a few short years. They're turning up now on the weekends, so it's just a matter of time until Port becomes bland and middling enough for them to dimly recognise its advantages. I know I always say doomy shit like this, but it's inevitable, isn't it? They will demand upgrades and memberships and wharf extensions and all this will become another marina for property speculators in black 4WDs. All those peculiarly unhappy tight-faced white men with disregarded golden retrievers and boats on trailers parked up on their double drives under spotless canvas covers, emblazoned with names like Blade, Samurai, Sea Eagle and Moonraker II. And Vixxen. With two x's, which is probably more apposite than they realise.
It's never Goodbye Remaining Equity, Bought This Fukken Thing To Impress My Side Piece or Half A Metre Smaller Than My Brother In Law's Boat, is it? Lol.
A fine stand of Cabbage Trees. Not Cabbage Palms, confused northern hemisphere people. They are in fact Lomandroideae or Agavoideae, depending who you talk to. Once again the chilled goods warehouse shits all over a formerly nice view; I cut it out below.
A lot of people destroy their Cabbage Trees or refuse to plant them because they drop their leaves. Why not shoot the dog for breathing while you're at it?
I can't remember who built this hull-shaped rock sculpture on the southern end of Back Beach; think it was a local artist? There's not much reference to it online and I don't think many people actually notice it for what it is. Which is okay; sometimes art should sneak up on you. As someone ruthlessly opposed to whimsical expression, I took a hard line at first and disliked it, but we've come to appreciate its moody ironies and also the kind of workpersonship that has seen it last in good shape for quite a while now. It is appurtenant without being overly literal and seems perfectly content in its own mystery. It thrives in the wild, coming and going with the tide. It's not plastered with credits and sponsors. It's the best piece of public art in the area.
The moon was a jewel at god knows what in the morning a few days ago, so I took some pics.
After all this time, I still don't know shit about cameras or exposure or aperture priority etc. and you can probably tell. I was quite proud of myself for finding the ISO button in the dark and knowing to dial in one direction instead of the other. Normally I would be embarrassed, having to admit such abject ignorance, but when it comes to photography I just don't care. It's such a fucking vainglorious and utterly bullshit conceit, all that framing and recording, as though you were somehow responsible for the beauty or intrigue of the result. Unless you create objects to photograph, calm your auteur hauteur and realise that your genius eye is a commonplace thing, and that you might as well be taking brass rubbings for all that you actually contribute. Photographers can only ever convey what they once looked at; BFD. We should be grateful we've had the opportunity and just leave it at that.
With that in mind, I have a lot of (exemptionalist and nepotistic) respect for my partner's images and his impressive technical knowledge. He pursues photography as a craft and a science, striving to better represent the natural world that he values so much. It's not a vanity project.
Anyway, I prefer the one below lol.
We live in a beautiful place. It enjoyed some 20C the other day, which was a record for the month.
June is supposed to be winter, with temps between 5 and 10 C.
I personally feel as though this super-ugly climate clusterfuck stuff is going to kick off much sooner than most people realise; it is already underway in more marginal parts of the world. We don't have kids, have never owned a car, don't fly and live very modestly, but we'll still be eating shit along with everyone who couldn't be bothered to do one fucking thing to be less of an environmental catastrophe. Cheers, arseholes. Cheers.
Some people want to complain about trains but I like them, even when they're bouncing me out of a great sex dream at 3.47am with brake screech and hard rumbles. Every time a train goes past, 34785 trucks don't. Think of it that way.
Will some arsehole please reinstate the formerly awesome Dunedin to Christchurch passenger service, because that route is dope and NZ busses are spectacularly ghettto. Only here would an incredibly scenic and already extant line like that, between two major centres godammit, sit idle for years.
It's only a little camera so there are some technical challenges but I like how it blows out, just like an eye.
The harbour is an unusually three-dimensional place, strictly contained by rims of hill and either expanded or compressed by cloud. On a bright cirrus day the blues are infinite, stained yellow by the slanted sunlight and pulled from azure into turquoise. Then the northeast cloud rolls in from the ocean, pouring through the gates at Taiaroa and over the Hare hill to set a leaden lid on everything, lying so low you feel as though your hands could brush its undercarriage. One is a palatial ballroom, the other a mist-dripping cellar. I like both.
This isn't drone footage. We climbed up to the lookout hill on foot to get these pics and that series of abrupt inclines sucks with lunch on board, let me tell you. I had to stop once on the last leg to reoxygenate and felt like an aged fatarse, but had my chagrin assuaged by the pall of cigarette smoke from some lazy random who had driven the whole way to the top. I gave up smoking twenty years ago and have never owned a car.
A towering complex of feral Tasmanian Blue Gums, Monterey Pines and Cyprus sp. flourish in the uninhabited belts of hillside encircling Port. Passionfruit and Muehlenbeckia vines entangle their lower storeys and tend to safeguard them from dipshits with chainsaws; birds sing all day from this ribbon of humanless green, fantails and warblers swooshing down over your head as you walk the Back Beach road that runs parallel.
Unfortunately, this miniature forest also seethes with feral possums, who demolish the regenerating native vegetation. We trap them for The Halo Project, a predator-reduction initiative linked to the local Orokonui Sanctuary, and they have just begun an intensive push to get their numbers down toward elimination.
There is often a curiously gaudy, oversaturated effect to the autumn light that falls on the paddocks in Sawyers Bay; I think it's the heavy volumes of water carried by the fresh grass that glows and amplifies the yellow tones. This scene illustrates that effect at about half-strength. When it's fully lit, the quilted, undulant farmland looks almost candied through the smudgy pines, but it usually passes before you can get a lens on it. Annoying.
The South Island is not much more than a brief affront to the vast volumes and momentums of the Southern Ocean, a montane blip to winds and oceans that scream virtually unimpeded around the tail end of the planet. So we get a lot of visible atmospheric stratification, with clouds headed this way and that on their various business. High horsetails usually mean trouble is a few days out, so you'd better get shit done in the garden before that cold southerly slams into and bows the big front windows and covers the road with pine needles and huge ribbons of gum bark. Bubbly cumulus lazily mass and disperse just a hundred meters or so over the harbour; the same shape will be born, over and over, in the lee of an island and the space of half an hour.
Everything worth knowing is annotated in this rhythm, all meaning, all process, all denouement.
You know your raver days are two fucking decades behind you when you start getting just as excited about incoming blooms as you once did about BPM, random sex and synthetic stimulants. My stimulants are organic nowdays. Autumn used to be a bit of a dud around here since we don't get great deciduous colour, being windy and maritime; all the summer flowers are fucked out and the aloes have yet to get their shit together.
So I decided to establish a bit of a crazy pot farm in the front yard. It covers the scabby concrete and tarmac patches, feeds the bees and pleases the eye with an array of exotic salvias and all the half-hardy beauties that might lose their roots in the clay. It's getting more and more crowded as I get into all those mesoamerican sages and South African bird polinated thingies that do so well here. Above: Aloe hoffmanii, first flowers I think tee hee!
The first flowering on this exceptionally emerald green Aloe glauca clone. I almost lost it a couple of years back to root rot after letting too many old leaves get manky around the base. Don't do that.
Salvia splendens 'Giant Form' apparently tops 6 feet and the hot red variant certainly curb stomps the colour gamut in late afternoon sunlight. Bought both the merlot and the scarlet versions; it was the right decision.
This head is only half-out but is already gratifying us with this intense candy blue-pink. I have several largely unnamed forms of this group and I love them unconditionally. They become enormous here with our decent rain and pissweak-to-absent frosts. The foliage is huge and plush. You can hear the clickety clack of bumblebees sawing into the base of the flower to get at the nectar (they are bird pollinated in native situ I think). Plant some today.
Salvia fulgens 'Red Dragon', a tall, open bush with attractive corrugated leaves and nonstop fuzzy scarlet floral business. Something, I suspect a Bellbird, comes along and snaps off half the damn heads trying to get at the nectar.
If I had a dollar for every euphorbia I had going on, I'd have about $12.50. The lazy gardener's main ho. Can't remember the name of this cultivar, but it's from Marshwood Gardens in Invercargill. Their online shop is like a tinny house for plant tragics. Sheeeeeeiiiiit. Peruse at your peril.
Salvia sagittata supposedly but it looks like it might be a hybrid with something else. The flowers and parts of the stem are an incredibly dense Afghan lapis blue, which is as much as you can ask of any given organism really. Not quite out yet, but you get the picture.
Below: good old Salvia leucantha, which I only discovered a couple of years ago after encountering its luxurious, almost extraterrestrial plushness in the flesh at a garden centre.
Always touch plants. The tactile dimension is a whole nother thing.
I always try to have some Dagga (Leonotis leonurus) going, even though this plant seems to labour under a curse in our garden, attracting all kinds of misfortune and mysterious fatalities. I have a slightly disappointing creme version too, which unfortunately looks like used bogroll a lot of the time due to the unsightly off-whiteness of the bloomage so I might pass it on. Dagga is supposed to be psychoactive but it looks like it tastes like something you would do in your late teens because you couldn't get any real drugs. So I haven't been tempted. Give it a few more years. I may well regress to vomiting sludgy decoctions in someone's backyard. Lol.
The honey-seeking birds tend to give it a fucking hammering, which is why some things are better closer to the house where the avian contingent is a bit more circumspect about humping the shit out of popular plants.
You might roll your eyes and murmur bloody sponcon, but nothing could be further from the truth. We don't tell people we're reviewing them, don't solicit or accept free shit, and just say whatever we like about whatever we're doing/purchasing/visiting. We went on this particular boat just because it was there. It's not sinister.
The Port to Port ferry was a long time coming, even though the 15 minute route across the harbour from Port Chalmers to Otago Peninsula obviates an horrendous hour-long, vomit-conjuring drive around the entire bloody inner coastline. They had to have their shallow-draft boat custom built; there are one or two vintage ferries that used to make the trip still lying about the place in various states of disrepair, but the romance of an historical vessel is one thing and the economic reality is another. I grew up in remote Northern Australia and still have a soft spot for tinnies anyway.
The boat is neat, stable and boarding from the low jetty in Port shouldn't pose any challenges if you have half-decent bipedal motility. You don't have to wear lifejackets but they have all the requisite safety shit on board; I checked.
This was Fir's first time on a boat. Though he was not initially convinced it was something a dog should be doing, he relaxed about halfway across.
Looking out at Taiaroa Head with its lighthouse and albatross colony. Below- Mt Cargill and the inner harbour, toward the Dunedin city end of things.
Things may have changed since we were last there, and it's not like it's a hellhole or anything; our best advice is to pick up some fish and chips and park your arse down on the waterfront on a nice day.
Personally I would prefer to punt most children into the actual sea before allowing them to monopolise marine research facilities, but that's probably a niche thing.
Heading back toward Port. It was a really pleasant trip and we definitely intend to do it again on one of those nice flat-water days over winter. There was a half-decent nor'east swell on the day and the boat handled nicely; R gets motion sickness sitting in a driveway contemplating movement, and he was fine, as was Fir.
Our one small gripe was the lack of commentary volume once we picked up speed in the rear half of the vessel. But you know, there was plenty of room in the cabin if we'd really needed to know more, and a low key approach to audio is one thousand times better than being fucked in the ears by some rote-droning halfwit, as any bus tour veteran will probably know. The experience was pleasant, affordable, low-key and irritant-free, so the Port to Port Ferry goes on our used+recommended list of local attractions.
Climate-wise, it's been a pretty typical summer so there's not much to report in that respect. Lifestyle-wise, we've had the culture shock of entering the hospitality trade via our little wiener guesthouse, which has taken our usual summer routines, strangled them and dumped them on the compost heap. Oh well. At least we can afford groceries now.
So anyway, we haven't been out much; you'll just have to make do with these quotidian scenes.
Newly minted geese. At least the local sports clubs aren't shooting them at the moment.
Juicy water. This had a sparkle rating of about 8/10 on the Blackthorn Scale. You can't really see where it picked up that sort of score in these images due to the limitations of the small camera we were carrying but it was a good effort. It had almost everything: sexy contrast, interesting distribution, lively coruscation. Points deducted for slightly disappointing sequin definition, suboptimal continuity and water colour could have been better, strictly speaking.
A number of krill events have seen legions of birds and fish of all sizes roiling through the harbour and sucking up that oceanic bounty. I dote upon these cyclic manifestations; they provide some evidence of business as usual in the face of all those hellish predictions.
This is Frost, some sort of collie/huntaway amalgam and he is a good boy. He runs ahead to all the swimming spots and waits, with his stick, for his lady and her poodles, who must remain on their leashes for reasons obvious to anyone familiar with the breed and I say that as a poodle parent.
Supermoon rising. Unfortunately we were not carrying a superlens, but you get the idea.
Above: Careys Bay Pub, just round the corner. Below: seasonal civil greetings.
As part of its postindustrial budget charm, Port possesses a puzzling superfluity of hazard signage, both contemporary and superannuated; in time I will document it all, before gentrification sweeps it all away.
This was just your usual shitty, no frills boatshed round Back Beach until the tin was stripped away.
I had no idea.
Fir insisted on obscuring this footpath dick; that is actually what you're looking at, in case you were wondering.
Careys Bay. The football field.
Fir is a crazy little unit with rolling sanpaku eyes and a joyous love of virtually everything. He's a year old now, which we cannot believe. Like Felix, he's topped out his miniature designation and gone over 35cm at the shoulder but is still small enough to sit comfortably in your lap. He throws up on long car rides. He treasures little pieces of fabric for hours, flipping them around and carrying them in his mouth like the little pica freak he is. Neutering didn't take the edge off his inexhaustible mania so I think we're stuck with all that dragon energy.
In what seems to something of an emerging pattern, late winter was warm and clement, easing into a nice early spring that then shit itself badly, turning into a month and a half of clammy sunless rain late in the season as Antartica started its seasonal thaw and threw front after front at us. Not fun. But the roses are gigantic. I'll post some pics soon.
Despite all the good intentions bestowed on their creation, fire areas are rarely entirely successful and I'm glad I noticed that in advance. We're happy with ours after a couple of test drives but we already had a terraced hillside to work with. We can hear and see the ocean. We're not overlooked by a thousand unsavoury neighbours. The moon is usually visible. So we can't snatch all the credit for our atmospherics.
Here's a few things to consider. There's a mysterious seclusion-to-convenience ratio that will make or break your fire area. Don't put it a mile away from the toilet/fridge/woodpile, or you won't use it. Conversely, setting it too close to the house will kill its secret sexiness. Also, you need it to be somehow surrounded in order to define the space; not necessarily walled, but meaningful physical demarcation is important. A line of fancy pebbles will not achieve this. The seating has to be slightly tight so the privilege of a decent berth around the flames is appreciated. Nocturnal airflow at our place means the initial smoke is reliably ushered away downhill, but you need to think about that too- don't put yours in a dead air zone. And last but not least... if your fire pit still looks and feels fucked despite your best efforts, it's because you cheaped out on the brazier, to within a 99% probability. That central element is crucial. I'm a stingey bitch who abhors those stupid overbuilt pizza oven/crematorium/half a fucking house-type installations beloved by sad outdoorsy wankers, but nothing looks cheesier than a shitty, budget, flimsy-arse brazier in an otherwise nice setting. Stop looking for vintage bunting and artisanal tealight ephemeral bullshit. Spend that extra hundy on something proper steel and handmade.
And thusly our scant wisdom hath been imparteth.
Fir tried to lie right under the damn fire so we brought his bed out. A guy in Christchurch makes these awesome corten braziers- I forget his name but you can look him up on TradeMe.
In virtually every culture that has encountered them you will hear stories about how herons were historically duped out of their previously mellifluous voices.
Fledglings are easy to identify: generally, their proportions are a wee bit stumpy, their feathers retain that vaguely downy look, their beaks are shorter and their behaviour is distinctly teenage. Though they're fairly common, this is the first pair of chicks we've noticed in our time here so it's nice to know they're breeding successfully in this urban-ish area.
It's officially Spring down here from Sept. 1, but really we've been in the latter season for at least a month now after a fucking balmy, frost-less winter that seems like several worlds away from the brutal ones we experienced upon arrival in Dunedin 20 years ago. The climates, they are a changing. Thanks Shell, BP et al.
I'm going to post a few things about the building process because I feel there's stuff I wish we had known before we began; it's like having kids- no one tells you about the bad shit until you're stuck in the middle of it. We've learned a lot and really sort of know what the hell we're doing now that the process is almost over. Just like life. You finally get a few things sorted and then poof, you're back to level one: microbial sludge.
On that note I will leave you and go the fuck to bed before the paint fumes induce me to produce lewd couplets. There'll be another lipstick review this week because I have a backlog to document before offloading some. Reasons- I have them. Shut up.