Sunday, 18 March 2007

Mount Ruapehu Lahar

The crater lake on Mount Ruapehu, one of the nearby volcanoes (the mountain we went skiing on in July) broke its sides today, releasing a lahar.

You can read the full story and see some cool photos here.


Monday, 12 March 2007

New blog

We've got a new blog, Technohippies.

We're not abandoning this blog, because the new blog has a very specific remit, but from now on our inane wibbling will be spread between the two blogs. There's only so much inane wibbling one couple can do, even us, so we'll probably be making fewer posts on here. However, next Saturday we're off to Wellington (the country's capital and the home of Peter Jackson for those of you not au fait with NZ geography), so that'll probably get a write-up on here.


Saturday, 3 March 2007

Ten Reasons

Ten Reasons why New Zealand is better than Australia

1. There are no snakes.
None at all. Not even small, shy, vegetarian ones. St. Patrick must have gone the long way round on his way to Ireland.

2. There are no poisonous spiders.
Apart from one, which isn't very poisonous, and is only found in the sand dunes on one particular beach near New Plymouth. It's so rare that there might actually only be one individual spider left.

3. It doesn't get too hot in the summer.
In many parts of Oz summer highs are in the mid 40s for months on end. It's exceptional here if the temperature hits 30 degrees. The average maximum daytime temperature in summer is 23 degrees - just about perfick!

4. We don't have droughts.
It rains a lot. Another thing we have in common with Ireland.

5. The indigenous people are treated much better.
While the relationship between the white European settlers and the Maori has had its fair share of problems over the years, the Maori have fared way, way better than the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.

6. NZ is a nuclear-free zone.
This means no US nuclear submarines in our waters, and no nuclear reactors just itching to go into meltdown.

7. New Zealand is not involved in the conflict in Iraq.
Nuff said.

8. You can see the whole country in a four-week road trip.
It would probably take four years of driving around Australia to see it all. Who could be arsed?

9. The All Blacks have a much cooler strip than the Wallabies.
No contest.

10. There are almost no Australians in New Zealand.


Friday, 2 March 2007

Square Foot Gardening

Having noticed that everything in our garden grows like stink for most of the year, we've decided to try growing some herbs and vegetables.

Iain did some online research, and discovered a method called Square Foot Gardening (SFG), invented by American gardener Mel Bartholomew in the late 1970s. We'd never heard of it before, but his original book was the best-selling gardening book ever in the USA. He brought out a new, improved edition last year. We've bought a copy, and it's very informative.

The principles of the square foot gardening method are pretty simple. Here's a rundown, taken from the official SFG website:

The Ten Basics Of
Square Foot Gardening

Arrange you garden in squares, not rows.
Lay it out in 4’ by 4’ areas.

Build boxes to hold a new soil mix above ground.

Space boxes 3’ apart to form walking aisles.

4 - SOIL
Fill boxes with Mel’s special soil mix:
1/3 compost. 1/3 peat moss,
and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.

5 - GRID
Make a square foot grid for the top of each box.

6 - CARE
Tend your garden from the aisles.

Plant a different flower, vegetable, or herb crop in each square foot, using 1, 4, 9, or 16 plants per square foot.

Conserve seeds. Plant only a pinch (2 or 3 seeds) per hole.

Water by hand from a bucket of sun-warmed water.

When you finish harvesting a square foot, add compost and replant it with a new and different crop.
Last weekend we constructed a couple of bottomless 4' by 2' boxes from rough, untreated wood planks, screwed together with decking screws.

We rubbed the finished boxes inside and out with linseed oil to give them some protection from the rain.

We lined the boxes with weed matting to stop weeds coming up from below, and to help prevent the soil creeping out from the gaps underneath the boxes caused by the wonkiness of our patio.

We made 300 litres of 'Mel's Mix' by mixing 1 part peat moss with 1 part vermiculite and 1 part mixed organic compost, and plenty of water to damp down the dust.

We put the 'Mel's Mix' in the boxes and added a square foot grid by threading plastic washing line through eye screws.

Finally, we planted our seeds, a different type in each square foot.
We've got 1 square foot each of broccoli, leeks, chives, basil, beetroot, sage, parsley and spinach, and 2 square feet (one in each container) of peas, carrots, lettuce and marigold (which is supposed to repel insect pests).

Yesterday, just four days after planting, the broccoli and marigold shoots were showing, and this morning they were joined by the peas and lettuce.

It's exciting to think that in a couple of months' time we should be sitting down to eat what we've grown (unless the slugs, caterpillars and birds get to it first of course!)