Newsletter Extract: A Hot and Dry New Zealand Summer

Canterbury is one of the driest areas in New Zealand but even by Canterbury standards this summer has been exceptionally dry and there is a worry that we may have forest fires of the like that the Nelson area has been experiencing. My folks are visiting in March, so I'm sure it will rain then, but I'm hoping that it rains tonight, as forecast, as we need it.

I am having to water the garden every day. Unlike other parts of the world and even other parts of the country, Christchurch doesn't charge for water being used, which means that people often let their sprinklers run for a long time, at all times of the day (when a water main broke under our house when we were away, it gushed for months without anyone noticing). I usually water early morning, or evening, but it has been scorching in the middle of the day.

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It is noticeable in the garden which areas I'm able to reach with the sprinkler or hose. Most of the rest of the garden is looking very crispy. I have to hike up to the top with a can to water my precious Bramley (precious because most Kiwis think a good cooking apple is something like a Granny Smith or a Golden Delicious - tsk.), but it's worth it.

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This is an extract of my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). I'd love it if you signed up at the bottom of this page, or here:

http://eepurl.com/cCOOeD

Or head to the archive to read more here.

Illustrated Epistle Extract: Our First Classic Kiwi Christmas Holiday

Normally we would never ever go away between Christmas and New Year in New Zealand. It often rains and isn't that warm. And everybody is on holiday, as this is the big summer school holiday. New Zealand is as busy as it gets (which, admittedly isn't busy by UK standards, but  means crazy drivers on the roads and premium prices in accommodation). But one of my sisters was coming over from London with her family and the other sister had booked a bach for us all up in the north of the North Island, the Coromandel.

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It used to be that ordinary Kiwi families had holiday homes ("baches", or "cribs" further south). But the increase in property prices, particularly near water, has meant that baches are becoming places that only rich New Zealanders (or foreigners) have. We were lucky to be able to find an old wooden bach that could accommodate all of us (bigger than the one above).
I haven't been to the Coromandel in 15 years and it has changed a lot. The old wooden baches have been replaced by much bigger and modern versions and any available land by the beach either had been built on or is being subdivided to be built on. There are very few beaches left in the Coromandel that don't have baches on their edges (New Chums is one and it is rammed with tourists because of it). The developers have their eyes on these. The money from Aucklanders and other rich outsiders (beachfront sections are retailing for $2 million) has changed the Coromandel. Places like Matarangi swell from 700 residents to 3000 and it feels like all of them have brought powerboats and jetskis.

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This is an extract of my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). I'd love it if you signed up at the bottom of this page, or here:

http://eepurl.com/cCOOeD

Or head to the archive to read more here.

Illustrated Epistle Extract: Things That Will Kill You in New Zealand

Since we have been back in Lyttleton, we've had a few small tremors (3-ish on the Richter scale) and a larger jolt (4-ish) and I'm glad our house is timber and that the chimneys were taken down after the two big Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. We live on a hill and there are some large rocks above us, but there are also large trees and buildings in between us and those rocks, so having those rocks come tumbling down in an earthquake is less of a worry than in some other places. A 7.8 earthquake in Kaikoura in 2016 caused massive landslips that closed Highway 1 (Yes the major road connecting New Zealand's north to its south) for over a year, so being protected from slips and rockfalls is a something you have to consider.

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At least being on a hill there is less risk of tsunami. In 1868, a tsunami drained Lyttelton Harbour and then ran up 3 metres above sea level, causing damage to wharves, jetties and boats, inundating paddocks and drowning sheep. It was due to an 8.5-9.0 earthquake that happened in what was then Peru (see Te Ara entry). Our house is about 40 metres above sea level, which puts us at low risk of tsunami damage, unless we are down at the pub on London Street, though even there it would have to be massive.

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This is an extract of my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). I'd love it if you signed up at the bottom of this page, or here:

http://eepurl.com/cCOOeD

Illustrated Epistle Extract: Crook Crockery

This month, I threw together the last of my pottery. Unlike the others in the class, I had very little experience and almost no natural ability. This was how things went:

my pottery progress (abysmal)

This is an excerpt from my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). I'd love it if you signed up at the bottom of this page, or here:

http://eepurl.com/cCOOeD

Illustrated Epistle: Predator Free New Zealand Though Not Yet At Our House

I write this as we have insulation pumped into our old villa's timber walls. I wonder what the rats and mice think of this. Apparently, New Zealand is having a rodent explosion and many of them seem to be at our house.

 

 

 

 

 

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There is a government-backed committment to make New Zealand predator free by 2050 and Kiwis are being encouraged to trap and kill predators in their own backyard. The focus is on rats, possums and stoats, but they would also like to see the back of hedgehogs. I have to admit I couldn't bear to kill the two hedgehogs we found in the sump last summer. Hedgehogs are dying out in the UK but it seems they are thriving here.

We have however been trapping rats. We have 12 traps in the attic that Duncan checks on a regular basis and there are now 6 dead rats buried in the garden. Until recently I had three trap tunnels baited with peanut butter and set up around the house to catch rats. These didn't catch any rats, only sweet little field mice (which are also an invasive species).
Although I didn't like it, I continued trapping these poor mice until one of the traps caught and killed a sparrow. Another "exotic" species, but that was a the last straw for me and I've stopped using those traps for now.

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This is an excerpt from my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). I'd love it if you signed up at the bottom of this page, or here:

http://eepurl.com/cCOOeD