springer

Springtime rolls around once more.

Today was a lovely calm day and I remembered that I have a decent macro lens now. So off I went around the house in search of subjects.

I got better than I expected in a patch of wild flowering bulbs up in a less tended part of the section. A little House Hopper spider was working its way from flower to flower:

A jumping spider walks across a bright red flower

It’s not obvious in this crop but there is some really nice detail captured - here’s a closer version - and I really should get out there with my camera a bit more often.

Previous springtimes:

weed

Not that weed.

Just a flower in the grass, after some spring rain.

A plain white small flower bejeweled with raindrops lies in the grass.

Previous springtimes:

outback

I’ve been hankering after a new bike for some time. No really good reason other than my beloved Surly Straggler is now outfitted for commuting for work and around town duties with practical mudguards and a heavy rack. And this meant that I had been doing less and less riding at the weekends. I ascribed this to the bike rather than my motivation, in a classic middle-aged bloke way.

So I have been looking at new bikes I could take out and about on the weekends, and in summer particularly I could take away down south for those long warm days on high country gravel roads.

For various reasons, I eventually settled on the Ritchey Outback. Not only is it nice springy steel from a legendary manufacturer but it can take really nice fat tyres for comfort… and… the pièce de résistance… this particular version comes with a suitcase and can be broken down for travel.

In my dreams I am catching a train somewhere, unpacking my bike at the end of the journey, and exploring a new place.

A yellow road bike with fat tyres leaning against a power pylon on a hill above a city

Those are some good dreams.

distraction

You know what? These last 12 months or so haven’t been great for lots of people, and while we’ve been spared the worst we still want to look out for something good to hold on to.

The rest of the family have always wanted a dog.

Now I love dogs, but after growing up on a farm I was certain that I would not want to restrict any dog of ours to the narrow horizons and confined behaviours of town and our less-than-large section in the suburbs. Our place is unfenced, and we also have chickens to look after.

And then there’s all the work to train and amuse and feed and exercise and toilet and keep healthy; the cost to us and the planet; the logistics of moving it about town with us and finding places for it on holiday (or pet-friendly places to stay). It all seemed too much…

…but I lost that battle…

…and now my whataboutisms melt when faced with this little creature:

Éibhneas

This is Éibhneas (a lovely Scottish Gaelic name meaning “Joy”) who we could call “Eve-ness” to approximate the correct pronunciation but who we just call “Evie”.

Today I’ve been working from home and Evie is bored. She’s been playing with her toys but what she really wants is for me to stop with all the zoom calls and endless mechanical keyboard clacks of fury and play with her instead. That look on her face… is hard to resist.

She’s a 14 week-old Tibetan Terrier, and for extra goodness her sister Pipi lives with R.’s sister’s family on the other side of town. So… in theory we can help each other out with dogsitting / holidays but in practice we have found the two girls just playfight all day long and it is impossible to work from home with the two of them in the house.

She’s been with us for about a month or so and yeah, she’s changed up things quite a lot in our household. It’s taking a bit of getting used to! While nowhere near as disruptive to a settled existence as a new infant human there’s definitely some similarities.

But I guess soon things will settle down (sooner than with an infant human I’m hoping) and we’ll find a new normal with our most recent family member.

In the meantime she brings the cute. Lots and lots of it.

nothing ended, but began again

Well, that was interesting, but something we would not want to repeat; here’s hoping.

Spring rolled around again, as it does, and well, what to do but yet another gratuitous photo?

Yesterday R₂ and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood; there were lots of kōwhai flowering and the inevitable tūī:

a tūī in a kōwhai tree

Then this morning: my usual Sunday breakfast of white clover honey smeared thickly on our home-baked toast and washed down with a Chemex full of finest filter.

breakfast - toast and coffee looking out a window into sunshine with a cherry tree

I am grateful to be here.

Previous springtimes:

two metres

With the government over the last weekend unveiling a new four-stage pandemic alert scale, and declaring we were on level 2, both R. & my places of work told us to start working from home for the foreseeable future.

So on Monday morning we started, with a renewed sense of being fortunate for what we have and being able to work through this and not suffer the uncertainty that so many others are carrying right now. In the 7am dark we went for a walk to get some small exercise and simulate the morning commute. We worked, not quite as normal, on the dining table: four screens and two laptops, keyboards, and mouses.

We established variants on the in-office rituals: R. starting a Zoom conference so that she and her colleagues could continue doing the newspaper quiz each morning; me and my workmates making a coffee and stepping outside into the sun for a FaceTime chat.

But then in early afternoon, it all changed again. The government made a new announcement: that we’d be going to level 3 for two days then level 4 from Wednesday at 11:59pm. Wherever you were on Wednesday night was where you were going to stay, in lockdown, for at least 28 days.

We hit the Air New Zealand website but we were too late to get B₂ on a flight back from Dunedin; they were all booked solid. She seemed ok with this and so did we seem to be. There was not a lot else R. and I could do in any case: it would not have been wise to send her to her grandparents on the farm an hour and a half away from Dunedin.

The next few days passed, busy with work and adjusting to this new normal. We would walk out before work, and again in the evening to end the working day: a 1.4km circuit where we would occasionally come across other people doing the same, and of course giving them all a 2m space (a lot easier now that the cars on the road had dwindled to almost nothing). The meme whereby people were to put teddy bears into their windows overlooking the street for the kids to spot seemed to be everywhere, and here and there Girl Guide troop members had chalked the pavements outside their homes with messages of support and encouragement.

B₂ and us decided that we weren’t that OK with being apart after all, but luckily for us on Wednesday the government announced an extension to the domestic travel rules allowing non-essential travel on internal flights, for people getting home, until Friday. We got B₂ on a very early direct flight from Dunedin, the better to avoid transiting a third airport and hopefully a quieter time. I bent the rules a little and went and picked her up; I felt that getting her in person, especially if she came to our car outside the terminal, was in total less risky both for us and the wider public than making her get a cab from the airport.

R. and I relaxed a little. The weekend rolled around, none too soon. Early school holidays started for R₂. With B₂ back our family was together again and she started doing some of her Uni work remotely. The weather packed up with the first vicious southerly of autumn and we had to put the fire on. We all helped build our remote island getaway.

On Sunday I went to the supermarket, which was a slightly weird experience. I picked one that had a large covered car park and sure enough, I could wait under cover from the rain, with 2m gaps between people in the queue marked with red tape. It was good to see the trolleys being cleaned between uses. I noticed that more people were starting to use masks and other protective gear; a very few were in N95 respirators and one cautious person was in surgical gear: hairnet, mask, goggles, and disposable outer overalls. I began to feel slightly under dressed; hopefully my new facemask will arrive in the coming week. (Yes, I know they are not considered essential by many authorities on the matter. But they also help prevent an infected person from spreading the virus, so from that point of view I don’t see them as useless.)

Overall this feels doable - at least for us in our lucky bubble. I don’t know if we will feel the same way after a month… but for now the pace of life has slowed dramatically in one sense while also becoming more anxious and frantic in another (limiting news intake is helpful here). The city is so quiet now and the traffic is gone; the birdsong seems more intense and when the sun shines, which earlier in the week it was almost continuously, we seem to have stumbled across great fortune.

We will need to hold onto this feeling in the days to come.

quick spring snap

It was a beautiful morning.

a bee visits a cherry blossom

Exactly a year to the day since my last spring posting here, I remembered I had a blog and snapped this fairly average picture of the cherry tree as I rushed out the door to work.

I think I need to try a wee bit harder next year.

Previous springtimes:

pīpīwharauroa

I have R₂ to thank for this one, possibly the bird photo I am most pleased with so far.

pīpīwharauroa in a kōwhai tree with a kōwhai tree moth caterpillar in its mouth

It was one of those warm-calm and overcast evenings. R₂ was looking out the window and alerted us to what she thought was a Pīpīwharauroa (Shining Cuckoo) on our kōwhai tree. She was right, of course, despite it being a bird none of us has ever actually seen before.

They are not uncommon - their distinctive call heralds spring as they make their way south down into New Zealand from New Caledonia to breed each year. But they are very cryptic and easily disturbed, and the closest I’d got in the past was spotting outlines of them high in the trees.

This one was systematically harvesting the tree for the kōwhai tree moth caterpillars – there’s one in its mouth in this photo – and seemed to be OK with me just 10 metres away snapping madly.

Now, if I could only get a photo of its larger and rarer cousin, the Koekoeā (Long-tailed Cuckoo), which I have seen in a blur overhead, but once.

the birds and the bees

Once again, spring returns, and once again our cherry tree fills with the neighbour’s bees. On calm days the tree is full of a active hum (of bees) and a sweet scent (of blossom).

a bee visits a cherry blossom

Occasionally, a kererū will drop by, quite tricky to spot sometimes in the sun-shaded side of the tree facing the house.

kererū in the blossoms

No doubt it will be back in November/December for the fruit.

Previous springtimes:

spring rain

I was just about to ride to work in the morning when I noticed that:

  1. The blossoms were looking pretty good;
  2. It had rained in the night; and
  3. There had been no wind.

Which meant that all the leaves and flowers had beautiful, soft, fat droplets all over them. I didn’t do a great job of capturing this with the iPhone (and how can I convey the delicate scent?) but at least there’s this.

spring rain on blossoms

And while we’re thinking of Spring Rain, I need to leave you with this gorgeous Aussie song:

Previous springtimes: