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Time passing on the farm

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Change happens rapidly in the growing heat of springtime. Here in the southern hemisphere Beltane has come and gone. We are trying to keep up with new growth and complex unfurlings of the ecology in which we are embedded.

The Shining Cuckoo, Pīpīwharauroa, whose arrival in New Zealand to breed is a sure sign of Winter’s turning can be heard calling. I'm yet to understand what the subtly different calls mean. But I know calling for a mate and being in touch with each other are different. The Welcome Swallow, Warou, are soaring about over the house and perching on the lines. I saw one last week catch a white feather falling from the air and then repeatedly fly upwind, let it go, and then catch it again after doing a large loop to where the feather had fallen. It did this more than 10 times. The flaxes, harakeke across the property are putting out their tall flower stalks and the Tui and Bell Birds, Korimako will be drinking from their deep flowers and getting the crowns of their heads painted with the vivid yellow/orange pollen. This always makes me laugh. I have often tasted the nectar of harakeke flowers, seeking out the flowers with the bright pollen showing, opening them and sucking. To me it tastes distinctly of water melon. Try it but remember to leave some for the birds. This is how they get the energy for their daily territorial and mating efforts.

The leaves are well and truly out across the land. The poplars (introduced and often seen along waterways as you drive through parts of nz) have leaves with a rosy bronze tint. When they’re small they have a special way of twirling in the wind and they drop some kind of little yellow sticky cone thing, the bees love the sticky resin.

The big and funny looking twiggy tree outside the caravan turns out to be a honey locust and its leaves are long and droopy with little leaflets like a kowhai. It is flowering and the bees are all over it. You can hear them thrumming the air from nearly 50 metres away!

The thing about this that most fascinates me is that 4 days ago they were not there at all. The flowers began to open one day and a few bees found it, the next day a few more and then bingo! It’s incredible to think that the initial bees would have communicated to all the others where to go using a little dance and chemical signals.

The apple blossoms are fewer but still present and the lambs are rotund and confident.

The grass is showing the fact that it's family are some of the most successful plants on the planet and they're growing so fast. To walk anywhere off path is to get sopping shoes and ankles well into the late morning.

Flies are multiplying when there's rain. After on a warm day and you know pretty quick if there's something nearby that they like…

But there are also certain areas, like one in the swamp paddock road, where the flies and sometimes bees like to congregate and as you walk past them they fly up in a jumble. I'm assuming that there is a little bit of water seeping out there which might hold specific minerals that they need.

Up in the "wild country" as Barry calls it. The annual/biannual 'weeds' are thriving/making the most of the sudden warmth. Thistles, of at least three kinds, are now often as tall as my chest and on the plateau they're actually taller than me. Rangi forbid anyone accidentally parachute into there. Murray plans to mow them very soon because they are just beginning to flower, their beautiful purple eyes just beginning to open. We must cut them before they develop seed. It is also full moon and the energy is high! This means that if we harvest them and compost with them then the essential energy will be therein and the roots left behind will be drained, if you feel drawn to this reasoning, which I find no reason not to be as long as it doesn't negate practicality.

The cabbage trees are in flower and they smell amazing like rich daphne and vanilla. Some of the trees, with they’re big spreading flower stalks covered in tiny pale yellow flowers, smell so strong that you only need to walk near one to get a full fragrant taste of it. No wonder the bees are all over them as well. Also very loud.

Pea-fowl (peacocks, one of the big pest species on the farm) are very vocal, Sam is flexing the range of his new metal-thrower.

The ducklings have a pretty bleak existence. Out of the 30 or so that were hatched There is only one remaining. The rest of them, wild or the tame white ones we feed, have met their ends. Through just getting lost, cold wet in the rain, falling in little gaps and holes. I even saw one of the wild ducklings being drowned by a wild drake (male duck) not to mention the predators that are inevitably appreciating the spring flush of life as well. Just as we would if we were tied more closely to the rhythms.

Mother deer around this time are giving the yearlings the boot and Barry says we will be able to find those younglings wandering around stupid and naive to offer cups of tea and to show the inside of the freezer.

On the fruit trees themselves, the fruit is rapidly engorging. plums are green jubes, little and hard but promising to eventually melt into sugary mouthfuls of abundant variety. Apples are fluffy marbles on little sticks like awkward innocent children.

I haven't been through the house orchard but I bet it reeks of the strength and fecundity of flowing sap and energy exchange. Sun, photosynthesis, carbohydrates, water, roots, fungi, minerals and the swelling of my favorite fruit, plums.

There is so much more but to see it all would be a full time job ;)

Leo George Gedye / Plum

Plums, still green, growing larger

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