Historic Fairview Homestead For Sale

Looking for outdoor living space? Got a bunch of kids with no where to play? Into horses?  Fairview might just be the answer.

I’ve been helping get the trees under control on friends’ 3 acre section as their interests have outgrown this historic Waddington estate with its extensive grounds. With their interests elsewhere, they’ve made the hard decision to sell Fairview and I’m just easing the woody stuff and creeper filled wilderness into a more presentable shape. Continue reading

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Flax cultivars for weaving

This coming Friday 18th August, the Canterbury Botanical Society will be having a guided tour of the Rene Orchiston, living harakeke collection at Landcare Research, Lincoln. Meet outside the main reception, 54 Gerald St, by 1.25pm.  Parking is limited, so it is recommended to find a roadside parking space, and walk to Landcare Research.

The collection comprises over 60 varieties of flax selected by Maori weavers and brought into cultivation for their diverse properties.  To understand what  I mean by that, download the catalogue (PDF) and read some of the descriptions.

Rene Orchiston collection – catalogue

The catalogue also has a brief introduction to the many uses and history of NZ flax, that is well worth reading.

The varieties include both swamp flax/harakeke (Phormium tenax) and mountain flax/wharariki (Phormium cookianum).

Harakeke is the 3m tall stiff bladed flax that fills the marshy ground beside lakes, rivers and lagoons as in this variety copied from the catalogue

ARAWA (42)
Source: Rotoiti area.
Description:  Straight, fairly long, medium green blades. Up to 2.5 m tall. Reddish-orange margin and keel. Very high flower heads but seldom flowers.

Uses:  Excellent muka harakeke. The best Mrs Orchiston found

detail from a family portrait. My great grandmother modelling a bone patu with flax wrist loop, bone hei tiki and a feather cloak (colours are hand tints by the printer late 19th C)

for producing long strands of clean fibre with hāro method (stripping with a shell).

Good for piupiu because it is so easy to prepare. Especially good for ladies piupiu because of the length although the prepared strips do not dry as strong as other cultivars. When boiled for one minute, it dries to a cream colour. Ideal for whenu and aho in kākahu and for muka kete.

Without harakeke and it’s muka the weaving methods of taaniko and feather cloaks might not have developed.


Wharariki is that tough and shiny chest high tussock that flexes to the wind in exposed sites from coastal cliffs up into the sub-alpine zone where it joins hebe, turpentine scrub and mountain daisies above the treeline.  Wharariki is pliable but it is difficult to extract the fibre so is more likely to be used in weaving such as kete/baskets, as in this example from the catalogue

Source: Tairawhiti (East Coast).
Description:  Short, bendy, bright yellow-green blades, giving the bush a yellowish
Uses:  Very valuable for kete as it dries to a clear yellow when boiled for half a minute. Gives good contrast for patterns when used with other cultivars. When unboiled, it dries to rich bronze-golden shades. Not a muka variety.


For a full story on the history of NZ flax this link goes to a New Zealand Geographic article, that starts in a replica collection, in a paddock near Takaka Flax-the enduring fibre, NZ Geographic

Heres a condensed video, from paddock to wardrobe, of the making of a mans (short) piupiu.


kete: a basket

kākahu: a cloak

muka: the fibre that remains after the flesh and skin of the leaf is stripped away.

aho: in weaving, the weft.

piupiu: skirt of dried and jointed harakeke leaves woven at the waist to form a belt.

whenu: in weaving, the warp

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Honesty Box

Facing the back of the Old Canterbury University


West of this Y


yet East of this Y


is what must be the smallest public Continue reading

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Cultural Shift

We must have been having terrible weather lately because I received a couple of emails (even one from Oz) asking how we’d fared with the storms that have hit Canterbury recently.

Well thanks for asking

We’re fine

We had a one day wonder

The consummate divaricate, wiggiwiggi, Muehlenbeckia astonii

Then we had a week of sun and frosts

followed by a bit of wet

looks like the 8″ culvert is blocked

after that a week of sun and frosts

During which there was a whole day knocking in steel ‘Y’ posts

followed by another bit of wet

and now we’re finally getting the sort of frosts that usually start in June.

That’s the air temp, not the frost temp. The frost was more like -10C

I’d really like to know how it is that frosts dry up puddles overnight!

It’s part of the human condition that we keep adjusting our idea of normal to match changing conditions, that’s Cultural Shift. The classic example from the 20th C. was the size of fish. When I was a kid a 5lb snapper would be let go as a tiddler. By 1990, 2lb was a good fish and 10lb would have a good chance of winning the annual surf-casting competition.

Surf casting at Birdling’s Flat, Banks Peninsula

Cultural Shift with weather seems to happen really fast, the reality in Canterbury is that we’ve just had two very dry winters, so dry that we haven’t had water over the 8” culvert for just under 3 years,

and it seems a lot of people, especially the media, are thinking this is the new norm, what the locals call a green drought. Now we’re back to average everyone is grizzling about how wet it is, but this sort of flooding is normally a 3 – 5 times a year event. Then in Christchurch, ever since the big earthquakes it doesn’t take much to get flooding, a combination of some suburbs that are one to two metres lower, streams that are narrower and the Avon – Heathcote Estuary got higher near the outlet. That all adds up to even poorer drainage than what you get from building a city in a swamp, should’ve built it like Venice.

Christchurch and the Avon – Heathcote Estuary from the Summit Road on the Port Hills

So for those that were wondering if we were affected by the bad weather,  Yeah ( the ground is a bit waterlogged) thanks for your concern


but really  – Nah.

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Seeing Red

Looking at the sites stats for this blog the most visited post is getting started with carving wooden spoons, which is totally weird as that’s not really a focus for Between the Ocean and the Sea. However given the interest and that the related blogs I look at, have recurring questions around getting cut, I thought I would share a recent experience. If you’re using good technique, correctly you won’t get cut, but most of us make mistakes, don’t we? Please tell me I’m not alone in this, because here’s a doozy.

Caution the first photo is somewhat graphic

I see red when I make a total stuff up Continue reading

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a walk in the park

Cautionary note to readers – this post is not compatible with mealtimes

A few weeks ago I’d taken my mother to Christchurch Hospital for an appointment.  I’d no sooner got her settled back in the rest home when I got word that a friend was in hospital so I tootled back to the inner city and parked in the middle of Hagley Park.


Hagley Park, Botanical Gardens carpark

The hospital is over there!


Botanical Gardens carpark, Hagley Park, Christchurch

From here it was a pleasant 10 minute stroll through the Botanical Gardens nestled in their intestinal loop of the Avon


Christchurch Botanical Gardens are cradled in a loop of the Avon

with late autumn displays and a brilliant blue sky

RIMG6644 (2)

Swamp Cypress, Taxodium distichum

The air was redolent with the pungent odour of a Cook Strait ferry


Power gives way to sail – “Yeah Right!” Cook Strait ferry brushing aside yachts in entrance to Wellington Harbour (Whanganui a Tara)

after a sailing where the stewards were busy gathering up used paper bags.

It took a while to work out that it was all natural, nothing more than the bountiful leavings of the maiden hair trees, Ginkgo biloba.

The fruit (bottom right) are pretty golden globes, not what you expect from something related to pine trees, but each fallen


ginkgo fruit smells like a cup of warm sick

Elsewhere winter was in place but the gardens are full of trees with winter virtues.


Nearing the hospital there is  a group of paper-bark maple holding up the sky


Acer griseum, paper-bark maple

and warm toned, many textured bark

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Letting in the light

When the Cook Strait kowhai blooms

and the snow-line creeps closer

Puketeraki Range from Loburn

On frosty  mornings Continue reading

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In the hills of Cheviot

North Canterbury Farm Forestry Association visited a couple of farms near Cheviot last Thursday.

The first is a small–holding north of Cheviot that was enthusiastically planted and landscaped around 20 years ago, with ponds ornamental trees and walnuts. The property is a familiar sight to travellers on State Highway One as one of the more scenic farms in this area. Our hosts Kevin and Prue kickstarted the day with tea, coffee and several plates of hot scones and buttered cake.

Continue reading

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Southern Lights

While I was cobbling together my last post, oblivious to events in the real world, a friend who likes his privacy so I’ll just call him ‘The BFG’, was out on the Port Hills near Gebbies Pass taking ‘not very good’ photographs of the Aurora australis.  In response to that last post of mine he sent one of his worst photos.  I am of course green with envy and have had a reminder to trust my instinct, as I had noticed a ruby tinge in the night sky, but with Christchurch to our south had put it down to light pollution.

Aurora australis from the Summit Road, Port Hills, Christchurch, 23 April 2017. Photo courteousy of the BFG.

I understand the next peak in aurora activity is expected to be 26 days after this one (19th May) when the hole in the sun points toward earth again.  This applies to the northern hemisphere too, where the solar storm that produced this display reportedly put on a good show as far south as New York.

You can find out more and check aurora forecasts here

If you want to catch one for yourself you can subscribe to aurora alerts here

The real trick is to spend more time outside in the evenings with a good view toward your polar horizon.


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Of St Aidan, ANZAC and Serbia

Another year and another commemoration of the sacrifices of WWI for ANZAC Day (25th April) is upon us. We’re so focused on the horrors of Gallipolli, victories of Palestine and madness of France and Belgium that we forget (actually I don’t think it ever really comes up at school or in NZ war histories) the Great War was spread over much vaster areas.

I have a thing for country churches something about the wooden neo-gothic architecture and I’ve always had a fascination with the stained glass images. Traveling in and out of the Hakatere over the summer I’d noticed a bell tower standing over some oaks near Mt Somers Village so heading home for the weekend one Friday evening I checked it out, St Aidans, Anglican Church.

St Aidans, Anglican Church, Mt Somers, NZ. January 2017.

Built in 1900 it’s the only church I’ve ever seen with mooring blocks, to prevent it  sailing away on the teeth of a Nor-wester not a problem for now with a good block of trees around it but as the old photo shows….

St Aidans Aglican Church, Mt Somers, NZ. Possibly prior to 1920 as the lychgate built in 1920 is not to be seen although it may be out of frame. Tree size would put it near 1920 if they were planted soon after construction in 1900. The background is the south face of Mt Somers

Click on any photo in the gallery to see it in detail.


It seems to me that a lot of Anglican churches have memorials to those who fell in conflicts far, far away. ST Aidan’s has a register of those “On Active Service” that clearly was never finished. If the lack of an end date wasn’t enough, that George and Harold Harrison aren’t on the list clinched the deal (see stained glass image above).

Roll On Active Service – St Aidans, Mt Somers

While you’ve got to admire the penmanship, what really got my attention was the 2nd entry ‘Jane Emily Peter, Nurse, Lady Paget’s Unit, Amongst first to Serbia’. In our popular narratives on WW I Serbia doesn’t get a mention and Bosnia, where it all began, gets two lines at best, so I had a real HUH? moment. Viva la internet, all things are connected.

St Aidans, Mt Somers, line 2 reads, Jane Emily Peter, Nurse, Lady Paget’s Unit, Amongst first to Serbia

Lady Paget, was the wife of the British ambassador to Serbia. She established the Serbian Relief Fund, using volunteers and charitable donations sought from both sides of the Atlantic, which then funded and provided ongoing support for a mobile hospital unit tending to wounded Serbian soldiers. The first hospital unit (nurses, doctors, medical supplies, tents, etc) was headed by Lady Paget herself, hence Lady Paget’s Unit.

L-R: Gertrude Littlecott, Emily Jane Peter, Grace Webster & Annie Hiatt at No 4 General Hospital of the Mooi Camp, Natal.

Jane/Emily was Born in Burra, Australia, later moving with her parents to Anama, Mt Somers, Jane went, as a nurse, with the NZ adventurers to the Boer War, and took herself to England to help in France but was turned down, the British Army wouldn’t accept women at that time, however British women did not agree, so she joined Lady Paget’s Serbian Relief Fund hospital.  I’ve copied straight into this report brief biographies for Sister Emily and another NZ nurse, Ethel Lewis, who in another unit had taken part in the Serbian Great Retreat.

Five New Zealand women received Serbian Awards as well as two women who later came to NZ. source

Dr. Jessie Anne Scott, Christchurch, NZ.  Surgeon with the Scottish Womens Hospitals, Serbia (twice-having been a POW and repatriated via Switzerland she went back), Russia – Romanian Front, Serbian Army and in 1919 France.

Sister Ethel Lewis, Otaki, NZ.  (see below for full account)

Dr. Agnes Lloyd Bennett, born in Sydney, became attached to an NZ medical corp serving in Egypt, Salonika, Serbia and Wales.  Between the wars she worked in the Wellington Childrens Hospital and as an obstetrician at St Helen’s Wellington, NZ.  She returned to England for WW II, and died in Wellington aged 88.

Sister Jane Emily Peter, born Burra, South Australia, childhood and later life Mt Somers, Canterbury, NZ

Sister Elizabeth Buchanan Young, New Plymouth, NZ

Dr. Mildred Ernestine Staley, born in Honolulu came to NZ sometime after 1923

Sister Mary O’Connor, Fairhall, Marlborough, NZ

A New Zealand medical contingent was sent to Salonika but …

No. 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital was mobilised in October 1915 to deploy to Salonika and provide medical support to the wounded of the new battle area.  The group departed Alexandria aboard the Marquette, a transport ship travelling as part of a British Ammunition Convoy.  The Marquette was unfortunately torpedoed by the German U-boat U35 on 23 October 1915, resulting in the lost of 10 nurses of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service and 18 members of the New Zealand Medical Corps.  The survivors were taken to Salonika and while several kiwi nurses returned to Egypt or New Zealand to recuperate, many offered to remain and establish the New Zealand Stationary Hospital as planned.  However, as military historians Sherayl Kendall and David Corbett record, ‘their offer was not accepted and as conditions in Salonika were not good it was fortunate the nurses were sent back’  source

As far as I can work out there were seven British hospital units in Serbia, four of which were operated and funded by the Scottish Womens Hospitals for Foreign Service, the linked wiki page also provides further interesting reading on the Serbian situation. This report by Lady Paget covers the first 3 months in Serbia, https://archive.org/stream/withourserbianal00page/withourserbianal00page_djvu.txt it’s sombre reading and to quote the recently late John Clarke ‘We don’t know how lucky we are’.  Where Lady Paget chose to remain with her patients when the Bulgarian forces entered Skopje, other hospital units retreated with the Serbian Army and ultimately joined the ‘Great Retreat’ where some estimates are 150,000 died of cold and starvation. Lady Paget’s unit remained working at the hospital while the Bulgarian Army was in occupation but when the Bulgarians were replaced by German troops, Lady Paget and her nurses were forcibly repatriated to Britain, which is covered in this Grey River Argus, article https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/GRA19160529.2.35.


Though Serbia bows her stricken head,

Hope whispers that she is not dead,

That Serbia, like the Phoenix, dies

A Greater Serbia to arise.

The Story of a Red Cross Unit in Serbia. James Berry, B.S., F.R.C.S., F. May Dickinson Berry, M.D., B.S., W. Lyon Blease, LL.M., and other members of the unit.

The following biographies are abbreviated from the website of the:

New Zealand Army Nursing Service – Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps http://www.nzans.org/Honours/Serbian%20Awards.html

Sister Ethel LEWIS
Ethel Lewis had gained experience nursing in Otaki but had travelled overseas and was in England at the outbreak of war where she volunteered for overseas service.  She worked for nine weeks in Belgium before being evacuated and subsequently travelling to Serbia where she worked with the 1st British Hospital attached to the 2nd Serbian Army.  While working in the trenches she was slightly wounded by shrapnel and was decorated by King Peter for saving the life of a Serbian officer.   When the German and Austrian armies forced a Serbian retreat she helped to evacuate the 400 patients through the mountains but only the hospital staff survived with Sister Lewis suffering frostbite.  The conditions were exceptionally bad with one patient dying on her back after she had carried him two miles.  After leaving Serbia Sister Lewis nursed in England before returning to New Zealand midway through the War.

The Great Retreat, the caption reads: Dr.  MacGregor leading the retreat of the Scottish nurses from Serbia

For her services in Serbia Sister Ethel Lewis was awarded the Serbian Order of the White Eagle (class unknown), Order of St Sava 3rd class and the Serbian Royal Red Cross 2nd class.  She then returned to New Zealand and in 1917 joined the New Zealand Army Nursing Service

Sister Emily Jane PETER
Emily Peter was born in Australia but came to New Zealand with her parents in 1861and spent her early years on a farm in Mid-Canterbury.  In 1891 she travelled to England to train as a nurse and worked at Westminster Hospital, London until returning to New Zealand in 1899.  She was selected to lead a group of four nurses sent to support British Forces in South Africa by the New Zealand Government in January 1900, and was one of the first nurses to enter Ladysmith after its relief.  Emily Peter turned(sic) to New Zealand in 1901 and worked at the Sanitarium Health Home in Papanui, Christchurch until leaving for England in 1914.  When the Great War broke out she was unable to obtain a place in the military forces and instead joined Lady Paget’s American Red Cross supported Serbian Relief Fund venture. Sister Peter travelled through Salonika to Skopje and later Vrnjatchka Banja where she nursed battle casualties, before succumbing to typhus just prior to the ‘Great Retreat’.

Jane Emily Peter standing. The original caption reads ‘These nurses from Canterbury were the first to depart New Zealand for the South African War in January 1900. From left to right: Sister Annie Hiatt; Sister Gertrude Littlecott; Sister Emily Peter; and Sister Grace Webster.’

For her services in Serbia Sister Peter was awarded the Serbian Samaritan Cross and Serbian Red Cross Medal.  After the war Emily Peter returned to New Zealand and died near Mount Somers in 1927.  Sister Peter’s medals are held in the collection of the Ashburton Museum, there are also a journal and photographs held by the Canterbury Museum.


Emily Peter’s Serbian Samaritan Cross


Emily Peter’s Serbian Red Cross – but I’m not sure this is hers as it is dated 1912 – 13

The two group photographs are from http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C68871



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