“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Scuba photos from the Poor Knights

Last weekend we were back in Tutukaka, and got to experience some great visibility and dive sites. This trip we dove 2 days, with 2 different operators. Darin and I decided we prefer Poor Knights Divers to Dive Tutukaka, mainly because Dive Tutukaka is a larger operator, has bigger boats, and thus has more divers on board. Poor Knights has a new, fast catamaran. The dive operators seem to visit the same areas, so there's no difference there. Lunch, however, was much better on Poor Knights- we got fresh smoked, locally caught marlin, mmm!! And, they gave us a kick ass deal on the trip. But really no complaints about Dive Tutukaka- in fact I really liked the dive site overviews and background about the islands. Oh, and their steps to get back on the boat are better.

Let me see if I can remember the dive site names... my favorite was probably Middle Arch, for its overall healthy fish, encrutsing coral, and kelp environment. This is where we saw the boarfish (first fish photo) and tons of stingrays. Second favorite was Jan's Cave or Cove. You swim into this channel, getting shallower as it narrows, then under an arch, and surface inside a private "lost world". There's a big dark cave, too. The other sites were Trevor's reef and Nursery Cove. The visibility was nearly as good as in Hawaii, and the water was still warm. There was only minor current surge at Middle Arch. We've been to the Poor Knights Islands 3 times now, and even though the conditions are calm at the islands, it has always been rough crossing. It is so worth the ride, though! The islands are a marine preserves, so there are lots of HUGE snapper, and other yummy fish like the odd-looking John Dory and Kingfish. Well I guess the photos can show you just how great it was. What was also great was meeting new people. We stayed with our friend Roberta and her coworker/friends Graham and Darren. Graham makes a mean cup of tea! I also met a couple people from a dive club in Auckland, which I have been intending to join. Getting away from work was just so great. I try to avoid posting anything about work, because it's not often fun, and this blog is my escape from thinking about work. It's a good thing they pay me.
Now another weekend is at its end, and I dread having to leave the warm fire and get into the cold bed. We worked hard and played hard this weekend: We played the game Settlers with my sister and her husband on Friday, using the Seafarer's expansion pack for the first time, and I won (narrowly). Great game, sort of like Risk but with resource cards instead of armies. Saturday, Darin rented a woodchipper and made mulch out of all the tree and shrub trimmings from our yard. We also picked up the new hens, which were bought from a nice family in nearby Henderson Valley. The hens are 2 years old, so egg production had dropped off, and the dad wanted to make some modifications to the coop. They are very nice birds, and I was really sad we had to cull some, but we just cannot have 14 hens in our small coop. So we culled 7 of the 11 new chickens (butchered for dog and cat food). Earlier this morning, we met my friend Aleada at the monthly outdoor arts market in Titirangi, then went to lunch (home cooking, mmmm!) at another friend's house, meeting spouses and kids along too. I tried a new recipe and made pumpkin soup for dinner, since we had volunteer pumpkin plants in our garden. It turned out great! Find it here if you're interested. The recipe doesn't say to blend it, but DO put it in the blender. Also, I added 3 chipotle peppers in adobo with the pumpkin. Then you don't need the black pepper.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Up came a spider

As you can see from the size of my finger, this was a substantial spider. She had an eggsac beneath her, and was not intereted in moving at all. She hung out on the wall outside our back door for a day, then disappeared. I looked it up in a book on NZ spiders at the Arataki Visitor's Center (it was a big book!) and decided it was a wolf spider, but based on the size difference between the two as described by Landcare, lead me to think it is a nurseryweb spider.
We had a two week visit from Darin's mom, so we had fun taking her around to see the North Island. During our visit to the Northland (yes, again!!), we hit the historical highlights: the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the old stone store and missionary house in Kerikeri, and the museum in Russell. My favorite was the old stone store, where I learned that a horrendous Maori inter-tribe massacre followed the sale of guns by Samuel Marsden, the first missionary to give a sermon in NZ, to a Maori chief out for revenge. I found it ironic that a man who was there to spread Christianity also profited from tools of death. On further consideration, this isn't really too much of a surprise. Just look at what the European settlers did to the Native Americans. The Maori have survived and have a relatively intact culture in NZ, at least superficially. Given the violence of the past, our relatively peaceful coexistance is impressive.

Anyway, as I was saying, we had really nice weather again, despite rain forcasts. We loved the Kauri museum, which is off the main road back toward Auckland. This place is huge and has a robot cow that you can milk by pushing a button. The best part of that museum is the kauri gum display.
We're headed back up to Tutukaka this weekend for our second dive trip to the Poor Knights Islands, with our friend Roberta and two friends of hers from work. I've been busy at work, and will be glad to get underwater where I can focus on breathing in and out, slowly, deeply.
In bird news, we have only one Araucana left, which we really hope is a hen. We had started to hear crowing, and we can't keep roosters. Darin got up early and spent much time outside waiting to see which one crowed, and the rooster was moved with two suspected hens to my sister's house. We continued to hear crowing, however, and three more cockerels were identified. Two of them are in the freezer now, and the other went to join his mates at Barb's. Now we have the two rescues and one Araucana who might be a hen, and none are laying eggs. Any...day...now! Meanwhile, I've made feijoa and date loaf several times, with happy results. The photo is of feijoas.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Thinking about refugees, women, and freedom

I recently finished the book Infidel, which I was the first to read, from the Waitakere City Library. This biography is shocking and sad, but really opened my eyes. To a degree I knew what to expect, but to hear her tell of surviving what she did, and what she accomplished, is really inspiring. The book got me thinking about freedom, and what it means to women in countries where they get treated no better than, sometimes worse, than animals. Consider the practice of footbinding girls in China- causing lifelong deformity and pain. Then there's the child brides, who get traded like a sheep to settle debts or earn eternal salvation for the family (Mormons). For the most part, I like to ignore current events in far away places like Somalia, Chechnya, Rwanda, etc. Human rights violations are a way of life in these places, and what can I do about it? Easiest thing for me is to ignore it. But now that I live in a country full of immigrants from all over the world, it's worth considering what this country means to people less fortunate than myself. Here is a link to refugees in New Zealand. I was interested to learn about the refugees refused entry to Australia, being quietly accepted in New Zealand. This excerpt is from www.migrationinformation.org

Another significant policy difference between New Zealand and Australia that
emerged in 2001 was the response to the resettlement of a group of asylum
seekers from the Middle East and Afghanistan. These asylum seekers were picked
up (at the Australian government's request) by the Norwegian freighter, the
Tampa, while trying to reach Australia from Indonesia. The New Zealand
government accepted 150 of the Tampa refugees who had been temporarily housed on the central Pacific coral island of Nauru while their refugee status was
assessed by UNHCR. The Australian government was determined that none of these
"boat people" would be allowed to land in Australia.

Also, New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote. Good on ya, NZ!

I still have a lot to learn. Creating this blog has been helpful, and distracting. Other things I've been thinking about, and researching lately: the pet food recall and thousands of dead cats and dogs in the US, human food supply safety (next book to read: Diet for a Dead Planet), and the root of many of humanity's ills, overpopulation (though no one wants to talk about it).

OK, enough of this darkside stuff- time for Happy Tree Friends!