Sunday, 29 June 2008

'Mothers' Display Closes

Today is the last day of the What Mothers Made or Wore display at the Otautau Museum.

This unique exhibition features vintage clothing and handmade items such as doilies and table cloths. There is even a fox fur on show.

Museum hours are Sundays, 2pm-4pm.

The next display will focus on the early community of Aparima.

Otautau v Waiau Star - Western Banner Challenge

Waiau Star hosted the challenge for the Western Banner on Saturday in the beautiful, natural surroundings of the Tuatapere Domain. Ohai/Nightcaps held the banner until last week when Waiau Star took it off of them. Then yesterday, the Otautau team vied for the prestige of holding the banner.

It was a cold, muddy game, but both teams displayed good offence and defence despite the slippery conditions.

The crowd was equally spirited on both sides. But Waiau Star had the home town advantage - everytime a try was scored people cheered wildly, and those sitting in their cars honked their horns madly.

I didn't catch the score but Otautau lost. Here are a few photos starting at half-time. Otautau is in the red and white stripes.

Strategic planning.

Moving forward.Loose ball.Big body contact.

Excellent lineout.

Waiau Star retains the Western Banner.

Otautau's next game is against the Central Pirates on Saturday, 5 July, 6pm at Holt Park, Otautau. Come on out and support the team.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Quilt Exhibition

We are blessed with inspirational craft displays in our town. This week we had the New Zealand Hoffman Challenge 2008 Quilt Exhibition. This array of 20 fabulous quilts, currently touring throughout the South Island, was organised by Catlin Quilts and expert quilter, Noeline Johnston.

The Hoffman Challenge is based on a few simple rules. The quilt is to be no larger than a square meter, not shaped like a square or rectangle, and must have a recognisable amount of the 'challenge fabric'.

Quilting has been around for ages but it never seems to lose its value. What I find interesting is that each piece invites you to look deeply into its handmade meanings.
I took several photos of the exhibition but you can find them them all on the Catlin Quilts website. Best of Show was 'Magnetism' by Denise Lemon of Canterbury. (Partially shown above.)

Noeline Johnston (pictured with one of her own quilts) teaches the workshop 'Changing Shapes' concurrently with the exhibition. The next stop will be Alexandra, 27-29 June at the The Studio. You can email Noeline at to enroll in her workshops and ask to be added to her newsletter.

Thursday, 19 June 2008


We've had so many beautiful sunrises lately. My camera's garrish colours don't do them justice.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Get Growing

I always seem to be behind the eight ball when it comes to gardening. I don't think I have a purple thumb, but by the time I start to think about my garden, my neighbours and friends already seem to have theirs well underway.

Lately, I've been watching the weather, watching the seasons, watching the approaching winter solstice (Saturday, 21 June, 11:59am), and wondering 'should I start my garden now?' So I wrote to a friend of mine and asked. She said yes, and referred me to a great learning resource for new gardeners: Get Growing, the NZ Gardener weekly newsletter. You can subscribe for free and get all kinds of practical, gardening information.

This is put together by Lynda Hallinan, the editor of NZ Gardener. She is not your garden-variety gardener. According to her blog profile:

"...she embarked on a twelve-month inner-city self-sufficiency experiment to prove that she could grow all her own fresh fruit and veges in her quarter-acre backyard. And to make life a tad trickier, she set herself a maximum weekly grocery budget of $10 for the basics (flour, sugar, butter etc). Anything else she wanted, she had to beg or barter for... 18 months later, she's still going."

With that as inspiration, and the fact of higher food prices and transportation costs, it's time to get gardening.

[Pictured above is a lima bean sprout from last summer.]

Promethean Interventions

Like stealing fire from the gods, two technological initiatives to harness the power of the internet have bolted their way into Otautau.

A few weeks ago, the People's Network of Aotearoa in partnership with the NZ Digital Strategy and the National Library, installed two, state of the art computers, complete with webcams and headsets, in the Otautau Library. These computers are set up to deliver broadband services to the public for free.

As I would be remiss in not sampling their capabilities for our readers, I soon made the sacrifice. The computers work well except for the expectation of speed - broadband is more a far-off aspiration than a reality, but this is for a really good reason. Because the computers are used by children and adults, all webpages are scanned for viruses and pornography before they load. This slows surfing down but also ensures a high level of safety and security of content for all users. I can't argue with that in fact I'm grateful that they've gone the extra mile having watched two young children hop onto chairs for a bit of gaming after school.

With safety in mind, they've also made the computers so that no one can save anything that might be of a questionable nature to the hard drive. Again, this is a very good idea.

Despite the slightly slower internet speeds, 'skyping' is still possible. Skyping is the ability to make phone calls on your computer for free. Long distance and overseas calls are all possible and free thanks to the Skype technology. This is a really useful tool for those of us who may have family elsewhere but no computer or internet connection to stay in touch.

The other innovation comes from the Western Southland Promotions Association Inc (WSPAI). They started a community-building website a while back, promoting Western Southland to the world. To date, about 150 businesses, organisations and individuals throughout Western Southland have made use of the free webpages. A few podcasts have crept onto the site but more are expected with the loan of computer equipment to Otautau, Riverton, Tuatapere, and Ohai/Nightcaps communities. This equipment consists of a laptop, a microphone, a digital recorder and software to make mp3's. Email me to find out more about using the equipment.

Now, what is a podcast, you may ask? A podcast is like a radio program on the internet. It can be a few seconds or a few hours long. The idea is that people make programs that can be downloaded onto iPods or mp3 players. These programs can range from interviews and infomercials to the artful and sublime. The WSPAI folks in collaboration with the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute (NZTRI) have enabled the website to play podcasts so that anyone anywhere can listen to real folks talking about what makes Western Southland one of the best places in the world to visit and live.

Now, to some, these initiatives may not sound remarkable. Isn't everyone online? No. In the 2006 Census only 144 out of perhaps 290 households in Otautau said they had access to the internet. A free internet connection at the library in conjunction with the Western Southland website means volunteer organisations and businesses which normally would not be able to afford their own webpages or email addresses can now operate on the internet with the rest of the global community. They can also create their own podcasts which will promote their businesses, organisations and the natural wonders of this beautiful landscape that we call home.

So a big thank you to all involved for stealing fire from the gods and helping Otautau residents to make the most of the internet.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Sustainability Guide

If, like me, you didn't know that 5 June was World Environment Day you might be interested in this. The New Zealand government website on Sustainability features a completely useful guide to a sustainable lifestyle. You can read it on the site or download the pdf: 25 Easy Steps Towards Sustainability. Don't let the green feet scare you; these little changes can make a big difference. Since my resolution for the new year is to reduce my use of plastics, I am finding these tips really helpful.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

China Earthquake Relief

A kind visitor sent me this call to action -- think global, act local:

Is there something in the shed or the spare room that you don't need anymore but it's too good to put in the rubbish bin? Think about donating it to the Southland District Council Social Club's Earthquake Relief China Fundraising Garage Sale.

All proceeds from this sale will go towards purchasing urgent medical equipment for the survivors of the recent earthquake in China. If you want to drop off something just head to the Old Showgrounds AG Pavilion on Arena Avenue just off Victoria Avenue (click here for a map). Sorry, Arena Avenue is so new it doesn't show up any maps yet, but it's there!

The SDC Social Club will have people there:

Thurs, 12 June, between noon to 2pm.
Fri, 13 June, between noon and 2pm.
Fri, 13 June, between 6pm and 9pm.

If you want to buy items the sale will be Saturday, 14 June, between 9am and noon. Anything left over will be donated to the Habitat for Humanity shop in Glengarry. So clear out a few items cluttering your home or office and donate them to raise money for those in need!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Blokes and Sheds Tour

The Otautau Heritage Trust organised a Blokes and Sheds Tour today as a fundraiser for their community work. It was the first such tour I'd ever been on, and it was very impressive. There are some very capable, talented and hardworking men out there. I had no idea that this is what some of them do in their sheds. I managed to get some photos of three of the five sheds on the tour.

The first shed we visited was Alan Stearne's. When we walked in the door, we saw two train sets running, one about twice as big as the other. Pictured above is the smaller one, obviously too fast for my camera.

Then, after we had had enough fun looking at them, he took us into the next room which had a train set that was twice as big as the biggest in the first room and within its confines was a veritable metropolis. It was truly a marvel to behold. I think we were all stunned to see the details of this village and the shear size of it.

But trains are not Alan's only hobby. He has an amazing collection of vintage radios, telephones, phonographs and records. He played this one for us. It's operated by a handcrank and plays perfectly. Who needs mp3 players?

As I was leaving I couldn't believe his garden tools. Clean, organised, put away. This absolutely puts my shed in the hall of shame.

John Lowrey's shed is entirely different. He's building a caravan from the ground up. This enormous creation is a feat of engineering and design. Outside, it is sleek and yet solid. Inside, it is spacious and comfortable, with all of the modern conveniences anyone could ask for. His lovely wife, Jan, has also made the squabs for the seating areas.

John and Jan Lowrey. I see travel in their future.

This last shed is a super shed owned by W. Saxton (didn't catch his first name). This is the mother of all farming sheds with vintage tractors galore.

But that's not all. One wall is packed with beer cans and bottle collection, and another wall is devoted to grocery items, from bottles to biscuit tins, from kitchen implements to school photos. Above, the two bottles on the right are for oysters. Did you know oysters came in bottles?

Biscuit tins.

Precursors to the electric food processor - and, well, processed foods.

There were so many other things in his shed that I didn't get proper photos of. One such item was a bellows machine that a blacksmith would use to keep the coal fire going.

But this last item was even more interesting to me when I got my camera home and could see the writing on the label. It's an egg incubator made by the Petaluma Incubator Company, Petaluma, California, USA. Petaluma is only 45 minutes from my home town. A small world indeed. Petaluma was known as the 'World's Egg Basket', probably greatly due to this company which streamlined the hatching process, much to the relief of the hens of the 1870s.

Thanks to the Otautau Heritage Trust and all the shed owners for opening your doors and letting us have a glimpse. I think we all appreciated the level of devotion you have for your hobbies, projects and preserving rural history. I'll never look at my shed in quite the same way again.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Sudden Endings

It seems like just yesterday I was thinking how quickly the year had gone, already we are half way through. And today, I'm getting emails announcing Matariki - the Maori New Year. So the year has in fact ended already! This is a time to honour those who have passed away and to look to Matariki (The Pleiades) at dawn in the east to see if they foretell a season of abundant food (hopefully at lower prices). There are a few Matariki celebrations happening in Invercargill and one happening later in the month at Riverton (more on that later).

Another annual ending happens on 21 June at 11:59am, the Winter Solstice. This day signals the virtual standstill of the sun as it changes its apparent direction from having ventured as far in its northern latitudes as it can go (23 degrees 26'). It is also known as the longest night of the year.

Cultures all over the world acknowledge the importance of the Winter Solstice, and many use the symbolic power of the sun's standstill to intentionally lay the old year to rest. Some of these rituals are even practiced at Stonehenge. I've often thought Holt Park would make a great home for a replica of Stonehenge. But I digress... Here are some things I'd like to say goodbye to with the old year: the high price of cheese, the high price of petrol, and my use of plastics. May the new year bring positive changes in all our lives.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Bird Stats

Well, the results of our unscientific but daring poll on birdlife in the Otautau District are in. The poll question was: In one hour, how many of these birds do you see or hear in your garden or yard? (Otautau District only) The number below indicates how many people said they had seen birds.

5 - blackbirds, house sparrows, silvereyes, and starlings
4 - bellbirds and fantails
3 - chaffinches, song thrushes
2 - greenfinches, kereru and magpies
1 - goldfinches, grey warblers, hedge sparrows, red polls, tui, welcome swallowss, spur-winged plovers and harriers

The Landcare Research Garden Bird Survey (July 2007) measured the number of birds in gardens but also the distribution of those birds across all gardens. They found that:

Blackbirds were the most widely distributed species, being present in 90% of home gardens, followed by house sparrows in 86%, silvereyes 81%, starlings
61%, song thrushes 52%, and other species less than 50% of home gardens.

This is very similar to the results we had with our five brave participants. We could've saved them a lot of money. But the folks at Landcare Research are planning another poll in July so we'll have another chance to make our votes count.

A Shaky Weekend

The southern coast shook this past weekend with a 4.6 magnitude earthquake. This graphic from GeoNet shows the location of the quake (red star) and also the whereabouts of those who reported that they felt it. The earthquake occurred, Saturday, 1 June, at 7:24am.

These little quakes always prompt me to check how prepared I really am for an earthquake or natural disaster. Here are EQ-IQ's instructions on how to quake safe your home. They also have a guide to emergency survival.

Election 2017

Election season has swung into gear with the next General Election on Saturday, September 23rd - 7 1/2 weeks away. Not much has changed with...