Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Introduction to Birdsong

Greetings from Birdsong, my fabulous first (and most appropriately named), home-stay! For your locational reference, they are on Wainui Bay on the Banks Peninsula, about 1.5 hours southeast of Christchurch.

If I currently had access to a computer operating system that was born after 1999, I'd attempt to get all fancy with providing you with a fine, fine map to further illustrate my location. And if my dear, dear camera had not been pulled into the ocean by a cruel wave a couple of days ago, I might have set aside the necessary two or three hours of patience required to attempt uploading photos as which to dazzle you with as well. But luckily said Canon is currently buried in a bowl of dry rice, about as responsive as a rock, trying to dry out, and so I am not tempted to produce an illustrated account just yet.

That is all just the long way of saying... 1) shiiiit, and 2) hopefully at some point I shall have some photographs to share with you in addition to my rambling. But contrary to the start of this post, I am not in fact here to talk smack. Sooo...

I write to you from the happily chaotic home of Bruce and Kathy (and Nina, the young little poodle who looks like a lamb and often jumps into my lap at unexpected moments), ex-pats from San Fransisco. It's also the home away from home for a changing cast of characters and friends and WWOOFers like me. There are seven of us bumbling about this week, working on various renovations and horticultural endeavors. They're not an established farm, per se, but are rather in the process of getting things going. Most the work we've been doing so far this week is planting in the Permaculture Way, and working toward converting big grassland paddocks into sustainable, permanent Food Forests.

What does this mean exactly, you say?
Well, for the body it means sore fingers and cut-up wrists, and the persistent but hugely satisfying ache of backs and arms and legs. It means taking a hit out on the grasslands--rip, pull, pull, rip--around our little fruit-tree islands in an ocean of grass. It means hauling loads of buckets, sloshing with super vitamin water, with rich, composty dirt, with leaves, with grass clippings...

For the land it means converting poor-soil grasslands into lush, self-sufficient, perennially productive, and biologically diverse little eco-topias. It means planting a fruit or nut tree, then in slow, expanding circles planting various companion plants around it... good nitrogen-fixing plants like tree lucerne and lupine...herbs like wormwood, feverfew, hyssop, thyme, rosemary, clover, alfalfa, meadow foam, and bergamot... plants whose names alone invoke a soothing, healing feeling on the tongue that utters them. More on all of this later.

The house itself is surrounded by gardens teeming with flowers on all sides. Oh, the olfactory glories put out by such rosebushes, jasmine vines, lemon, and lavender! The buzz of bumbles, the fantastical whooshing wingbeats of wood pigeons, and the baaahs of neighboring sheep are always on the air. Past the flower beds, and past the veggie gardens and the out-buildings teeming with tools and experiments, are the woods and the creek. About 13 acres to roam here... a giant Monterey Cypress to climb (treehouse in the works!)... another native NZ tree, whose name escapes me at the moment, has been pruned into a giant, cup-shaped nest. I like to sit in there and pretend I am an egg. There are many secret little places here, faerie places. It is the perfect place to spend my first couple of weeks in the country.

I am very happy indeed.


  1. Revive the camera... we need more tropical images! I saved my old camera by putting the camera in an oven on low with the door propped open for a day. May be worth a try if the rice doesn;t work.... although the salt has probably licked it good. Was there a surf board involved in this incident?

  2. I wish there had been a board involved.
    No, it was just a swimming expedition... i looked away and a rogue wave must have reached up and nabbed my bag as it sat on a rock. By all accounts my poor little camera is toast. Its that deadly salt... I've already ordered a new one, alas.

  3. Katie, Christchurch was my favorite city in NZ, and you are on a great island. Sounds fantastic there. Keep up the posts! HC