Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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The Tui

The Kowhai tree in the garden has suddenly sprung into life this week and from what seems like nowhere, beautiful golden blossoms have appeared.

Kowhai tree

I swear I didn’t even see it budding!

Sitting outside, enjoying the last bit of the warm evening air, doing a spot of knitting and drinking a nice cold beer, I became aware of someone enjoying a nectar feast.

Tui

Loudly, be proclaimed this garden to be his personal preserve.

Tui 2

Look at his fluffed feathers as he calls his particular song of clicks, whistles and calls.  Tui are not songsters like the thrush or the blackbird, but they have a very distinctive, flute-like call.  Each Tui has his or her own song, so you can tell if the same one inhabits your garden after a while.

Tui 3

Such a pretty bird!  They are the first ones up in the morning, calling even before the sun begins to lighten the sky, and the last ones to bed, calling even after it has long become dark.

Tui 4

I love the mantle of white features and the white necktie bobbles.  See his beak covered in pollen?

Tui 5

The Kowhai tree has flowers rich in nectar, and is a favourite of the Tui.  You can be guaranteed a visit from these lovely birds if you have one in your garden!

I feel so lucky!  A Kereru on Monday, a Tui on Tuesday, what will I see tomorrow!?  😀

 

 

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The bee patch

Every summer, I feel very sorry when I take the lawn mower to the beautiful long grass, and all the lovely wild flowers growing in it.  There are many bees happily buzzing about in there, enjoy the sweet nectar.  A common sight in my childhood, New Zealand honey bees have become less and less over the years. I treasure their presence.

So I have begun to keep a small patch of wild grass wilderness in the garden, just for the bees and the skinks.

The bee patch

This patch is in the corner of the garden, on the edge of a slope, so it is a natural place to leave wild.  Under the grass is a patch of rocks, put there by a past resident of this house, under which skinks live.   They are the common skink, but I am very fond of them. Unfortunately, so is the cat.  I decided to leave let the grass grow wild in this particular spot also because it made it harder for him to find and catch them.  It seems to work (I hope!)  He has caught less this year, very thankfully.

This patch is not exactly a pristine New Zealand native flora preserve.  It’s quite weedy actually.  I do take out the more horrible things like nettles and ragwort, but unless I indulged in a major replanting (not a good idea in a rental property) there is not much I can do to have anything else in there.

Other inhabitants also enjoy the undergrowth:

New Zealand weta

This madam weta waved her claws at me indignantly as I was doing some judicious weeding at the bottom of the slope in the shady area one day. I love these critters. There is something about them that I really like.

The bees just love the honeysuckle, that grows along the fence.

Honeysuckle

Its sweet fragrance fills the air.  Such a delight!

Wild radishHere is one of my lovelies, enjoying some sweet wild radish.  It is not a honey bee, but a smaller common bumble bee, Bombus Terrestris. This was a very busy little thing, I followed it around as it visited each flower.

Bombus Terrestris

More weeds… Mexican daisies.  Very pretty, but an official pest plant in this part of the world.  They have at least been contained to this one area of the garden, plus I think my landlord would have an issue if I ripped it out as it was growing here when I moved in.

Oxeye daisies

I do love these oxeye daisies.  Apparently, dairy farmers hate it because the cows don’t like the taste, and they can take over paddocks as a result.  Sheep like to eat them though.

It may be a weedy little patch, but the plants are keeping up the bank (which was crumbling before I allowed the plants to take over), and it is giving the bees food, and they make this part of the garden look very pretty with all the flowers.

Nature is taking its course though, as I see the process of reforestation taking place before my eyes.  Larger plants are growing in – hebe and coprosma, both hardy New Zealand natives that grow easily and naturally in this part of Wellington.

Hebe

The hebe has very lovely flowers, which range in colour from the palest mauve to lipstick pink and magenta, and in another year or so, some very pretty flowering bushes will be growing along this bank.  They can be kept trimmed and pruned, and will look lovely.

Hebes

It’s a natural regeneration process.  In another couple of years, the weeds will be gone, and the natives will have replaced them, and they will continue to provide food for the birds and the bees.

Perhaps allowing the grass to grow long has brought more benefits than I hoped?

 


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They’re really quite cute

I had a rather boring post drafted today about how I’ve done it again and knitted three socks and not one pair… but then I decided it would be far more interesting to share these New Zealand insect cuties with you today.

I know that not everyone will see the beauty of these insects, but I think they are really quite awesome.

This nursery web spider nest has been built over a number of flower heads.  It’s so delicate, and so beautiful, this translucent silken cocoon.  The spider itself is rather creepy and very large, so I am glad I never saw it!  As long as it stays in the garden, that is fine.

Nursery spider web I was weeding the garden recently, and suddenly spied this mama weta peeking out at me from the patch I was clearing:

female wetaFemale wetas are usually quite docile and slow, and she happily clambered on to a twig I offered her and then climbed to safety so I could continue weeding.  Their bodies are actually very fragile, so I could have easily crushed her without intending to.  Chickens absolutely adore eating them.  This one was a nicely sized specimen.  About 2 inches long.

The cicadas are still singing their deafening songs.  Although not quite so loudly any more.  Much to my relief.  Here’s one of the little singers – it’s the Chorus cicada, one of the 42 species of cicada found in New Zealand, and the largest (and possibly loudest as well!)

Chorus cicadaI spied it as I was coming back from hanging out the washing one morning, and thought it would make a nice photo.  They’re about an inch long, not including the wings.  My son has a great time catching them and looking at them after school, before releasing them to fly away.

Chorus cicada

The older boy spied this beauty on the path today.  I think it’s the Acanthoxyla inermis, the same New Zealand stick insect that has found its way to South-West England, and has the distinction of the being the longest insect to be found in Britain.

Stick insect

This one would be female, judging from its size.  She was about as long as my hand.

Love her little beady eyes!

Buggy eyesAnd finally, a little katydid nymph that I spied in the camellia bushes the other morning. So cute!

Katydid nymphI love being surrounded by the natural world.  It makes me feel grounded, and real. Such beautiful designs in nature, and such variety of colour and shape, way of life and patterns of living.  Looking at these pictures gives me a massive “stress relief” moment.  I thought I’d share them with you, in case you feel the same.

And finally, a picture of one completed sock, just to give you an idea of what I’ve been knitting.  The other is nearly done…

Peach leaf lace socksPeach leaf lace sock by Qianer of Hiya Hiya

Knitted in Knitsch 100% merino sock in Gwyneth

I’ve knitted them a bit small for me.  I’m giving them away.  I have the ‘too many socks’ guilts.

Have a great weekend!


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The Kaka and the Tui in the Kowhai tree

This is the Kowhai, the New Zealand native spring blossom tree:

We were in the Wellington Botanical Gardens yesterday evening where there are a number of  Kowhai trees in flower.  “Kowhai” (ko’fai) is the widely used Maori name for this tree.  It means “yellow”.  It flowers in Spring, a mass of beautiful yellow bell-shaped flowers.  Nectar rich, they attract nectar loving birds from all over the city, particularly the Tui, one of New Zealand’s iconic native birds.

It was glorious to hear them singing away in clear, bell-toned notes.  Each tui has a different song.  They are also great mimics, and some times they pick up songs that are not so wonderful…

We were extra surprised to see this rare kaka (rhymes with baa) in the tree!  A worried tui (you can see him at the bottom of the picture) tracked it, seemingly saying “Hey, what are you doing?? That’s my food! Don’t eat it all!!”  The kaka, a New Zealand native parrot, is an endangered bird.  They have a typical raucous parrot screech, but they can also emit a beautiful clear melodic tone as well.

Here’s a clearer picture of the kaka – unfortunately the sky got blanked out, but you can see the bird better:

Thanks to the efforts of Zealandia (formerly the Karori Sanctuary) they are becoming quite a common site in this part of Wellington. If you click the link I’ve provided to Zealandia and wait a second or two, you should hear some lovely birdsong when the page opens up (including the tui’s).  It’s birdsong that is thankfully becoming more common in suburbs around the sanctuary (including mine) as the birds branch out from their base.  Zealandia is not caged in – there is predator-exclusion fencing, but the birds are free to fly in and out they please.

Here’s a better pic of the tui.  Such a pretty bird!  You can just see the white stripey collar and the iridescent black feathers that shine with a green tinge in the light.

It was a lovely interlude on a gorgeous afternoon.

On another note, thanks so much to everyone who has shown interest in the Strong Heart mittens!  It made me so happy to see all the interest in them.  🙂

Don’t forget – two more days before the giveaway closes.  If you’d like the chance to try some New Zealand yarn for yourself, go ahead and leave me a comment as per the instructions!

I realise I forgot to show you pictures the other day.  These are the two balls of Zealana’s beautiful Rimu:

And these are the two balls of Stansborough’s wonderful Mythral:

On the knitting front, some happy knitting has been taking place…  I’ll be back soon with news on the knitting front.


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The Wellington Botanical Gardens

Eric had a day off school today.  We were driving past the Botanical Gardens, and it occurred to me that it might be a nice day to visit.  Eric thought it a good idea too.  We drove in, and then I realised that of course, it’s Summer, and the roses were in full bloom!

The roses were so beautiful!!  The scent was heavenly too.  I couldn’t help myself and took a few close-ups to share with you:

The gardens are right on the outskirts of Wellington’s central business district.  They’re very convenient to access.  A knitting group apparently meets here every second Sunday or so; I’m not sure if they still do.  Don’t they have a fabulous setting though!?

There were some darling little new arrivals to coo over swimming around in the fountain:

They were just like little bumble bees.  Adorable!  Eric spent all his time here watching them while I walked around admiring (and photographing) the roses.

We also decided to visit the Begonia House (you can see the glass house in the top photo).  I thought we might see some monkey pots and venus fly traps, which are of interest to Eric.  No venus fly traps, but a few monkey pots.  The lilies and lotuses were in full bloom and rather caught my attention:

I think I’ve made mention of my abhorrence for lilies in the past (those horrid smelly things), but water lilies are a completely different thing!

The lotuses made me hungry for lotus root.  I miss that food!

A myriad of guppies with fluorescent colours in their tails were swimming in the water.  Eric spent ages admiring them.

Back outside for another quick look at the blooming beauties:

Then on to the children’s playground, where Eric had more fun:

This part of the park is often inhabited by native birds like the New Zealand parrot (the Kaka), and the native wood pigeon (the Kereru).  We caught sight of both these specimens flying overhead today.  So lovely to see!

It started to rain, so we headed back to the car.  On the way, I couldn’t help marvelling over this lovely old Puriri tree and its ‘fur’ coat of epiphytes:

This forest tree has pink, juicy, cherry-sized berries that are adored by birds, including the Kereru, the Tui and the little wax eyes.  There are benches positioned around the base of this tree, and I can imagine that when the berries are ripe in a couple of months, you’ll get some fruitful bird watching sitting there.

It was a nice, unexpected interlude, and great quality time with my son.  The beauty of nature is also wonderful inspiration for future knitting designs!

 


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Fractals

Frac’tal:  A curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole.  (Dictionary.com)

The winding braids of a river, the branches of a tree, the veins in a leaf,  even our own blood vessels for that matter, are fractals. What interests me about fractals is that they are by and large courseways, or natural lines of energy flow. I find them fascinating.

In knitting, more than one designer has been inspired by fractals.  Norah Gaughan’s beautiful book Knitting Nature explores many aspects of natural form and she has turned those inspirational elements into gorgeous things for us to knit.

Let’s look at some fractals:

I love the seeming random pattern of the branches of this cabbage tree.

Fern and cicada’s wings:

Another cicada with beautiful wings (I love these guys).

Branches within branches of the harakeke flower stem (NZ flax):

The very pleasing form of the branching needles and seed pods of the macrocarpa:

Science aside, they simply inspire and delight me.

What do you think I’ve decided to do with it?