Friday, April 28, 2017

Environment Southland councillor sparks up after being shut down - The Southland Times

Councillor Guyton in the news :-)

Environment Southland councillor Robert Guyton has been shut down from speaking about a damning water quality report at a council meeting.

Councillors instead decided to speak about the issue at a closed workshop in which the public and media will not be invited.

Robert Guyton wanted to talk about a Ministry of Environment Report released on Thursday which says New Zealand's lakes and rivers are coming under increasing pressure for reasons including land use.

The report was tabled at an Environment Southland committee meeting and Guyton noted the "strident" media coverage it had received that day, including calls from some quarters for an immediate reduction in cow numbers.

However, Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said the issue would be better spoken about in a council workshop, with Cr Lloyd McCallum agreeing.

Guyton was not happy.

"I am rather puzzled why we aren't allowed to speak about it now," he said.

"We seem to be burying it in a workshop. What's the purpose of this meeting," he asked.

Phillips said the report was tabled at the meeting as a "heads up" for councillors and the item was not on the agenda.

He said it was appropriate to have a "more considered" discussion about the issue at a later date.

Cr Ross Cockburn, the committee meeting chairman, also said it was more appropriate to have it in a workshop at a later date, but Guyton voiced his opposition.

After the meeting, Guyton said he believed the water quality report should have been spoken about by councillors in the public forum so the public knew where the councillors stood.

"To shove it into a workshop which is public excluded, I think is wrong."

"Southland people would like to know what their elected members are thinking on this issue," Guyton said.

"If they are only getting the sanitised version they shouldn't feel confident they are being well represented."

Many of the Environment Southland councillors were farmers "and it would be difficult for them to be critical in the same way I can", Guyton said.

Workshops were "good things", he said, but he believed they should be open to the media.

Democratic councils should be able to discuss matters in a free and open fashion, he said.

He did not believe Environment Southland was being purposely secretive by having its many workshops away from the public gaze, "but that's the result".

There had been pressure from some councillors in the past to open council workshops to the public but the majority of councillors had opposed it, he said.

Phillips, also speaking after the meeting, said he didn't have the "technical people" to discuss the report at the meeting.

"It was just a heads up [for councillors] and I think Robert had a slightly different view ... everyone else was comfortable with what I was saying."

Councillors could have continued discussing the issue if they wanted to, Phillips said.

Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell, also speaking after the meeting, said councillors had not read the national water quality report prior to the meeting so did not know its contents.

They needed the facts before having an intelligent debate on the issue in the public forum.

A workshop was ideal for councillors to get their heads around an issue and be free and frank with their views, "but there should also be a second step where we have a discussion in public", Horrell said.

He agreed that the public needed to know what councillors were thinking about.

In response to Guyton saying farmers around the council table would find it difficult to be critical on water quality issues, Horrell said all the councillors had sworn an oath to do their best for Southland and they knew they had to improve water quality for future generations.

Winter's nipping at autumn's heels

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Solar lanterns on a clay floor

Chipped glass

I'm still finding broken glass in the soil I'm presently cultivating. This piece caught my attention; I'm not sure whether the three shapes are the result of design by the glass maker or shearing as the break occurred.

Friday, April 21, 2017

An odd story about a hedge

(Found on a site devoted to the Green Man)

"Sean Breadin drew my attention to a letter in the July 2010 edition of Fortean Times written by Nick Skerten from London:

One summer afternoon in 2007, I was returning from central London and my train had spzent a few too many minutes idling at the platform in New Malden station. Lost in thought, I had been looking out of the window at nothing in particular when I suddenly saw something that made me gasp out loud. At the far end of the London-bound platform is a thick bank of trees and shrubs behind a fence. I was astonished to see what appeared to be an enormous face made up of the surrounding foliage looming out at the opposite platform and looking very similar to the typical appearance of the ‘Green Man’, as seen in church carvings. The face was about 5ft (1.5m) in diameter and about 7ft (2m) or so from the ground.

I was amazed how perfect the face seemed to be-though at the same time I knew it was just my brain demonstrating its knack for face recognition in random patterns. I probably gazed in wonder for 20-odd seconds before the most shocking thing happened.

Suddenly, and with tremendous velocity, the entire face withdrew backwards into the vegetation, which caused the surrounding bushes and trees to sway violently. Most strikingly of all, a branch that must have been under the ‘face’ swung upwards with immense force-as if a huge weight had been lifted from it-before smacking into the surrounding greenery and, I suppose, reassuming its original position. This whole motion took about a second and the face had completely disappeared! I could accept that a fox or even a human might have been sitting on the branches and had jumped off, causing them to bounce back into position, but this would not easily account for the very distinct retraction of the face, as if it was wrenched backwards into a tunnel.

The face in no way looked constructed or man-made and seemed to consist of a natural, though utterly remarkable, arrangement. The features of the thing were clear to see and I was particularly struck by the grinning mouth and staring eyes. Quite how the verdant visage was sucked backwards I have no idea. I have often wondered how, or indeed why, anyone would have achieved this bizarre effect for bored South West Trains passengers. The train drew away and I sat back in my chair feeling strangely unnerved. On all my subsequent journeys through the station I have never seen anything like this again.

I managed to get in contact with Nick to ask his permission to reproduce the letter and to see if there was anything else he would add. Nick commented that: “There was no-one near me when I saw this weird thing, which is slightly frustrating! I was travelling back from town after doing some shopping. It was a very sunny day and I suppose the train had been waiting for a good two minutes before I noticed the face in the leaves. I hadn’t been staring out of the window all of that time and it was, as I recall, the moment I looked at the bushes that I saw the face. I’ve always had a good look at that bank of trees whenever I pass through New Malden station on the train, but it’s always looked like a rather standard bush and nothing else. It was, though, the terrific suction that seemed to be exerted on the face as it was wrenched back into the shrubbery that I found so inexplicable. The violence of the exit and the massive swaying of branches and foliage was quite spectacular and just left me feeling really surprised and shocked. I only wish now that I had got out of the train and gone to investigate the opposite platform, but, alas, I didn’t, so I’m left with the mystery.”"

Harvest festival, Orchard parks

Southland's Heritage Orchard Parks

Over the past couple of weeks, clebrations to mark the opening of heritage orchard parks in Riverton, Tuatapere, Monowai and Mokotua have been held. Each featured the unveiling of beautifully carved signs, made at Southern Shell here in Riverton, and attended by representatives of the families from whose orchards the trees the parks now hold, along with locals from each of the Southland locations that now feature an orchard park. Mayor Gary Tong cut the ribbon at Tuatapere, supported as he did so by the enthusiastic team from the town whose combined work has produced an orchard of their very own, as has the work of the teams at Riverton, Monowai. Mokotua held their Grand Opening Ceremony just recently, with ribbon cutting, plaque unveiling, speechifying and cider-toast making for everyone involved, an apple press squeezing out heritage juice, displays of fruit from the trees growing in their orchard park snuggledin the shelter of their country hall; a lovely scene, delightful people and a great initiative that Southland is proud of. There are more orchard parks to come this winter. Robyn and the Open Orchard team have their sights set on Winton, Ohai, Nightcaps, Edendale and Waikaia and are busy talking with their community boards about the opportunity to become another heritage orchard in the Orchard Park chain. The parks are destined to become a tourist attraction, we believe, perhaps for a special sort of traveller who searches out history in its various guises, and could be enhanced by some of the technological bells and whistles that give added value to other tourist attractions; information that pops up on the cellphones of visitors when they wave them over mysterious QR codes printed on the orchards gate posts, video that entertains, audio that informs, that sort of whizz-bang newfangled stuff that makes heritage more palatable to everyone. Congratulations must go to Robyn Guyton in particular, for her relentless work in finding and grafting the heritage fruit trees, organising spaces for the parks, communicating with locals to maintain the orchards and generally making it all happen.

The 9th Heritage Harvest Festival

The late-March date for the 9th harvest festival was an ideal one, with weather that made everything a pleasure; the big marquee stayed put, the crowds turned out for a day's entertainment at the festival followed by some time on the beach and the fruit on display was ripe, despite a grey summer. Visitor numbers were as high as ever, with a great increase in the numbers of children apparent, all busy playing with the old fashioned games on the lawn and in the tent managed by the Steiner pre-school team. The apple press squeezed out bottle after bottle of fresh juice and everybody who brought in apples from their own trees got the chance to turn the handles. Musicians and singers, including the fabulous Saylen Guyton, kept the atmosphere in the hall lively and sweet, as did the stall holders, selling all sorts of fragrant and enticing wares. The Harvest cafe was humming with activity and the tables always occupied by diners, enjoying the healthy food. The honey bee fanciers spent all of their time talking with would-be bee-keepers and the vegetable and garland display tables looked fabulous, festooned with hand-made, hand-grown wonders. Workshops on almost every imaginable activity, from seaweed foraging to urban gardening ran over both days and were very popular. Our special global guest, Phil Rainford, had flown all the way from England to share his extensive knowledge of heritage apples with us, and described the weekend as the highlight of his life! Everyone agreed that the festival was wonderful and worthwhile, even those, like myself, who might take a while to recover from the huge effort of putting everyhing up, then taking everything down again. Congratulations to all concerned with running the Harvest Festival; your work has once again resulted in Riverton's appeal growing and her fame spreading.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Perfect weather for the amanita

They're swelling and spreading their parasols.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cracking up

The croc nut cracker is good for white paper walnuts, but not up to the job of cracking peach stones. I'll do those with a hammer in the morning. There are plenty of soft-fruit stones around at the moment and I'm trying to get as many of them as I can into the soil in order that they will grow in the springtime.

Night light with moon and stars