Plant­ing trees, one me­tre at a time

NZ Lifestyle Block - - NOTEBOOK -

The Mil­lion Me­tres Stream Project has a goal to col­lec­tively fund a mil­lion me­tres (or 1000 kilo­me­tres) of tree plant­ing along stream banks around New Zealand through crowd­fund­ing.

Any­one can sup­port a project some­where in New Zealand by fund­ing the trees for a me­tre of plant­ing along a stream. The project you sup­port re­ceives the funds and plants the trees the next win­ter, and the group keeps you up­dated on your project’s progress.

The project is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Sus­tain­able Busi­ness Net­work and En­spi­ral (a NZ so­cial en­trepreneurs group) and is sup­ported by the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion.

Any­one with a wa­ter­way on their prop­erty can ap­ply, but there are con­di­tions.

Our lit­tle vil­lage ex­tends from the har­bour’s edge up to the top of the near­est ridge­line which is blan­keted in a mix of na­tive bush and a few pine plan­ta­tions.

Be­yond the top of the ridge, the har­bour view dis­ap­pears, and the out­look is more trees with the odd patch of pas­ture from var­i­ous blocks left over from ei­ther the land set­tle­ment of re­turned sol­diers af­ter WW2, or strug­gling farm­ers go­ing broke and chop­ping off small parcels for al­ter­na­tive lifestylers back in the 1970s.

There is a broad mix of in­hab­i­tants in the area now: for­mer hip­pies now col­lect­ing their su­per­an­nu­a­tion; young cou­ples want­ing out of the big cities; and plenty of peo­ple who just came and stayed be­cause they love the area and the com­mu­nity.

Mered­ith had been liv­ing over the hill for years. She had no doubt been quite some­thing back in the ‘60s and was prob­a­bly not averse to il­le­gal sub­stances even now. But she was also an older woman strug­gling on a small block with all the chores that main­tain­ing land, house and an­i­mals in­volves.

It was bad news when her lit­tle Ti­mor pony turned up at the back door look­ing for his morn­ing snack with one eye se­verely dam­aged and blood streak­ing his face and ch­est.

Ac­tu­ally, he was not hers. He be­longed to one of her sons, who had bought the pony on a whim for his own daugh­ter. But as the years went by, the son and his fam­ily had re­turned to the city for work and ed­u­ca­tion and the pony had been farmed out with grandma.

When she rang the Vet it was for a ‘put down’. Mered­ith saw no fu­ture for a one-eyed horse, and she could not af­ford any surgery. A pain­less eu­thanase seemed in­evitable.

The Vet and I drove out there and had a look. The pony was a fluffy lit­tle white Ti­mor, barely 12 hands high with black hooves, dark eye­lashes and nose. Sen­si­ble in a white horse, so he was un­likely to suf­fer sun­burn and skin can­cers. He ap­peared to be about 12 years old.

The of­fend­ing eye was a mess. Good­ness knows how he had done it. Per­haps gal­lop­ing in un­der the old macro­carpas be­hind the house where the branches swooped down but had been nib­bled off by cat­tle over the years, leav­ing spikey twigs pok­ing out­wards at about horse head height. Or he could have stum­bled and slipped onto some of the manuka stems where some­one had been clear­ing back a bit of scrub re­growth.

But what­ever the cause, he was dam­aged now and the eye was not re­pairable.

“We can take the eye out,” the Vet told Mered­ith. “I’ve done it on plenty of dogs, and a few can­cer eye cows. Never on a horse be­fore, but it shouldn’t be too dif­fer­ent.”

But when he men­tioned the cost, Mered­ith was adamant. She could not af­ford it and she wasn’t sure she wanted a one-eyed horse around any­way. The grand­kids didn’t ride him now and hardly ever vis­ited. No, the horse would have to go.

But the Vet prefers the busi­ness of fix­ing an­i­mals rather than killing them so he asked if Mered­ith would re­lin­quish the pony if we could find it a new home.

“Sure. What­ever is best. I just can’t do it my­self,” she said.

The Vet had a cunning plan. There was a new tribe of kids boost­ing the lo­cal school roll, a large fam­ily that had moved north for its milder cli­mate and a taste of a good coun­try up­bring­ing. We went back to the car for a phone and tracked them down straight away.

Si­mone was a de­light­ful woman with some dis­tant Euro­pean an­ces­try of dark­eyed gypsy and with a heap of kids to

Small Farm­ing Cer­tifi­cate, 12 or so bite­sized chunks of learn­ing that fit­ted into nap times. It was a good primer and helped me map out a path for our block.

As soon as I sit at my desk or on the sofa, my two leap on me and there’s no rest. But if I’m in the kitchen, stand­ing up and pot­ter­ing about, they of­ten come to join in or find some­thing to do, and this has given me the free­dom to bake bread, make (sim­ple) cheeses, per­fect my lemon cheese and pre­serve fruit. Some of my ru­ral skills are de­vel­op­ing. It’s also prob­a­bly what got me into this fine mess in the first place.

One of the best things we did was stop mow­ing the back pad­dock. We’d no­ticed lots of seedlings spread­ing from the nearby stand of manuka on a neigh­bour’s prop­erty. The na­tive bush is re­gen­er­at­ing nicely now and I’ve just planted around a dozen na­tive plants and trees on the fringe of the back pad­dock in the hope that the birds will spread the seeds and con­trib­ute to greater bio­di­ver­sity.

By ne­glect­ing my vege gar­den, I’ve learnt that: • kale and sil­ver­beet plants will keep pro­duc­ing for three or more sea­sons; • bolted pars­ley will re-pay you with a fine bed of self-sown plants next year; • pota­toes store well un­der­ground for over a year; • cape goose­ber­ries will keep pro­duc­ing all year round with no in­put; We’d love to hear about your prop­erty and its an­i­mals, your projects, your life’s mo­ments. Email edi­tor@nzlifestyle­, and if you wish to in­clude images, please send high res­o­lu­tion jpegs.

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