The fei­joa har­vest vs the weka

There are the usual wild sus­pects that want your fei­joa, and then there are the clever ones with le­gal pro­tec­tion. WORDS KRISTINA JENSEN

NZ Lifestyle Block - - CONTENTS -

Iknow this column is meant to be about fei­joas, but first I want to talk about weka.

Here in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds we have a love­hate re­la­tion­ship with these ‘en­gag­ing and re­source­ful’ (as one ex­pert source puts it) birds. hes­i­tate to use the word 'en­gag­ing' when it comes to the res­i­dent weka in our backyard, un­less we are re­fer­ring to the fact that I en­gage with them fre­quently. The lit­tle team around here are known as 'The Bad Birdies', and while I know they were here first and you can't blame them for tak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties when they see them, I work very hard to make sure that the gar­den perime­ter is not breached. They can have the whole rest of the lawn and the pad­docks and the bush, but the fenced-in veg­etable gar­den is mine.

This year I dis­cov­ered that fi­nally, af­ter two years, the Bad Birdies have fig­ured out how to jump over the cor­ru­gated iron into my gar­den. This prompted a fair bit of un­la­dy­like lan­guage and some quick se­cur­ing of the perime­ter with net­ting and wire. I al­ready knew that weka had jumped over a friend's 1m-high cor­ru­gated iron gar­den fence re­peat­edly, but I still thought I was safe (or that at least my toma­toes would be).

I also knew that if there was a lit­tle hole lead­ing to a new and ex­cit­ing place, a weka would en­large it and find its way in. One may have jumped or it may have bur­rowed un­der the iron – never mind, I fixed it (this time).

Our species of weka is known as Gal­li­ral­lus aus­tralis and they seem to be do­ing very well out here at the mo­ment. It's kind-of funny when peo­ple from weka-free ar­eas of New Zealand ar­rive here and goo and cluck over them. We can't help but slowly shake our heads in that won­der­ful way New Zealan­ders have of telling you you're be­hav­ing like an id­iot, be­fore head­ing back to the house to make sure that the guests have shut the doors, oth­er­wise there will be a weka or two in­side, dec­o­rat­ing the car­pet and/or eating the pet food.

Weka are pretty clever, but al­ways seem to for­get where the door is when you go to chase them out­side. In­stead, they tear around, poop­ing

Peo­ple from weka-free ar­eas ar­rive here and goo and cluck over them

co­pi­ously un­til they get out. To this end, we have com­man­deered an old fire pro­tec­tion screen to use as a Weka Stop Door.

Once the fei­joas start fall­ing from our trees, we have to be su­per quick or the weka get them. They are op­por­tunists and will in­ves­ti­gate any­thing that lies in their path, es­pe­cially if it is at all re­motely ed­i­ble. Un­for­tu­nately, their brand of in­ves­ti­ga­tion of­ten in­volves re­mov­ing the item to a se­cluded spot for beak-by-beak anal­y­sis. This is ok when it comes to food items (although the dog would dis­agree when it comes to his bones) but not so great when it comes to chil­dren's toys, footwear, cut­lery, swim­ming gog­gles, money, cell­phones, sun­glasses, keys and vi­tal pieces of Lego. I reg­u­larly find ex­am­ples of these items when clean­ing up the gar­den beds in spring.

There is a lovely lit­tle is­land sanc­tu­ary not far from us called Maud Is­land and you won't find any weka there (hope­fully). But the jolly weka must find it ir­re­sistible be­cause in 1978, three weka were given num­bered bands be­fore be­ing re­leased sev­eral kilo­me­tres away on the main­land. The trio were back on the is­land within days, af­ter a long trudge and a 900-me­tre swim against a 4-knot cur­rent. That's what I call de­ter­mined, and Rocky the dog would agree with me; watch­ing him try to eat his bone with­out it be­ing dragged off by sev­eral weka while he's still gnaw­ing is funny for us but not for him.

The ul­ti­mate in weka-free gar­dens be­longs to our good friends Mitch and Emily, who have what they call The Veg­etable Prison, an im­pres­sive mas­ter­piece of fenc­ing that keeps out un­wanted beaks, claws, paws and teeth – it even has a wire net­ting roof. I have al­ready de­cided that if we ever buy a piece of land, the first thing I will do is build a Veg­etable Prison. If it's not weka try­ing to steal the fei­joas and the rest of the har­vest, it's go­ing to be pos­sums, pukeko, ducks, rab­bits, deer or your own dog. Much as I am an ad­vo­cate of shar­ing the en­vi­ron­ment with the crea­tures of the earth, I think it's ok to claim a lit­tle bit for my­self to grow food in, and just think of all the beans, peas and zuc­chini rampi­cante I could grow up those wire net­ting fences!

I men­tion Emily on pur­pose be­cause she has al­lowed me to show­case her stun­ning fei­joa sor­bet in this is­sue (thanks Em). She calls it ‘the ul­ti­mate, light, tangy au­tum­nal dessert’.

Em and Mitch also have the most pro­lific fei­joa trees I have ever seen and their gen­eros­ity each year knows no bounds (that is, trees and peo­ple are both gen­er­ous). I am for­ever grate­ful for the lit­tle bags of frozen peeled fei­joas that dwell in our freezer, keep­ing us hap­pily filled up with crum­ble and sor­bet all win­ter long.

This is the ul­ti­mate, light, tangy au­tum­nal

dessert

Clever weka...

... teach­ing their clever off­spring.

KRISTINA JENSEN lives in the beau­ti­ful Marl­bor­ough Sounds. She side­steps su­per­mar­kets, gar­dens madly, and loves to make any­thing and ev­ery­thing her­self.

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