Monday, April 21, 2008


I have been doing a lot of work in the garden lately: mostly weeding, a bit of planting. I think I got inspired when I discovered a couple of months ago that I am capable of tackling blackberry. Two or three years ago, the local Council supplied young native trees and grasses for my neighbours and me to plant beside the reserve in our street. Since then, I have been cutting weeds back from around the plants periodically to prevent them being smothered but I have largely ignored the returning blackberry, not knowing quite what to do about it. When I went out most recently, in February, to cut back weeds, I found the blackberry running rampant! There was more blackberry than anything else. I figured I might as well make an attempt to take it on, and soon found that with gloves and long sleeves, I could get close to the roots and cut the stems off with shears. I dragged it all into two big heaps and asked the Council to come and take it away (no progress yet on that - might take them a year or two to action). Where the soil was loose, I dug out some of the blackberry roots and Geoff says when the new growth starts, which it probably has by now, he will go out and do more of that. The photos above and below are before and after shots respectively of one little patch.

Since then, I've been working in our own garden, starting with the strip alongside the driveway, which has been dominated by weeds because when we planted it in native grasses a couple of years ago, we didn't plant enough. I am visiting the local garden centres one by one, buying their cheapest native ground-covers. The driveway strip is starting to look good.

Next I started clearing out the back, which has also been dominated by weeds ... in this case not because of insufficient planting but because we almost never do any weeding there! Our small feijoa tree has fruit on it but it was all going to fall among a tangle of weeds and be lost. There had been a bad smell near the feijoa tree for some time, which I noticed whenever I went out to hang washing on the line. I wondered if it was a dead hedgehog - I sometimes hear what I think is a hedgehog snuffling around at night - but when I cleared the area, I didn't find any nasty remains. I think the smell was just rotting vegetation; it's gone now.

I would like to plant something around the base of the feijoa and around our other fruit trees, which are still in the conceptual stage, to combat weeds. I am wondering if lupins and mustard would be appropriate. I know they are used to refresh vegetable plots; might they contribute to the soil health around fruit trees too?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I have joined the ranks of climbers who have endangered themselves through stupidity. The kids and I went out to Ship Rock at Baring Head at the weekend, with a friend. It was a beautiful day and we had a lovely time despite my wee incident, though didn't get in all that much climbing. Baring Head is mostly bouldering but Ship Rock is bolted for sport climbing. When I got to the top of my climb, I set up to abseil down as usual, did a quick check and began to lower myself. Things felt wrong immediately: my harness felt as if it was being pulled sideways and I wondered if I hadn't done it up properly. I looked down and saw, to my horror, that my abseil device and the rope were attached not to my harness loop, which is designed for the purpose, but to a gear loop on my harness, intended just for hanging carabiners and other gear off when they are not needed.

I'm pleased to say none of us panicked. I took my weight off the gear loop simply by pulling on the rope above my abseil device, and was beginning to enter into thoughts of lowering myself down the rope while supporting my weight in that way (it wasn't far to the ground) when my climbing buddies pointed out that there was a bolt nearby on the rock. I clipped in to that and moved the abseil device onto my harness loop. Made it to the ground safely though in need of chocolate I did have a prussik attached (correctly), as a back-up brake, which would most likely have caught me if my gear loop had broken. Would not have been pleasant though!

This is of course a decidedly unflattering story, but I have appreciated hearing other climbers' stories of pitfalls to watch out for so it seems only fair to tell others of my mistake.

Naturally, I have been motivated to re-think how I check my set-up. I am checking more systematically now, starting at the body (is it correctly in the harness?) and working outwards, and, at Geoff's suggestion, checking that there is back-up for every step of the system.