The beauty of the southern night sky is one of my favourite things about New Zealand. It’s often cloudy in Wellington, but on clear nights, the stars are so beautiful and bright. Now that it’s winter time and gets dark so early, it’s beautiful to look up in to the sky in the evening and see the Southern Cross in the heart of the Milky Way.
In another part of the sky, the Pleiades (or Matariki, as the constellation is known here) begin to become visible in the early morning just before dawn. When Matariki appears in the early morning sky in early winter, it signals the start of the Maori New Year.
To celebrate Matariki, my work place had an early morning ceremony on Monday (which I sadly missed because my train was late!) But I was able to participate in celebrations on Friday when my workplace offered hangi for lunch.
Hangi (as seen at the bottom of this photo with my lovely hangi model) is a traditional Maori meal cooked in a pit oven in the earth. Stones are heated in the pit, the food is put inside baskets on the heated stones, and then everything is covered with earth, and the food steams for several hours before being uncovered and served. Hangi has a beautiful, rich smoky flavour, and it just melts in your mouth. The hangi lunch we had included kumara (sweet potato), potato, cabbage, stuffing, chicken, mutton and pork. I only ate the vegetables and stuffing, which were so good! My meat-eating sources confirmed that everything was just perfectly cooked, with the meat soft and juicy, and just falling off the bone.
On Saturday we had another kiwi treat — we’d attended the Home and Garden show back in May, and I’d won $100 worth of native plants from Kereru Discovery. Kereru — also known as wood pigeons– are gorgeous native birds that you don’t see much here in the city, but I’ve seen them a few times when we’ve gone tramping up in Waikaremoana, and more locally at Battle Hill up in Paekakariki. Anyway, when I won the prize, Kereru Discovery were really fantastic at inquiring what kind of a section we had and what plants would suit. We put in a special request for colourful grasses and flaxes of short/medium height, a kowhai tree (trees with gorgeous yellow flowers in spring that attract tui birds), and a manuka bush. In addition to all that, we got a lemonwood tree, a tree with some fancy name that is more commonly known as ‘bushman’s toilet paper’ due to it’s large leaves, tussock, and some gorgeous native iris with beautiful orange foliage that will produce white flowers.
This was awesome on so many levels. The previous owners of the house had a terraced garden with some native plants, but for the most part, the gardens were a bit random. We’d previously planted veggies in the planter boxes, and had success with silverbeet (swiss chard), curly kale, celery, and lettuce. The spinach, cabbage, and carrots thus far have been less successful (though I think the carrots just need more time to grow!)
But on one side of the house, there was a crazy big lavender bush being strangled by ivy growing all through it, and then some sort of mystery fragrant silvery ground cover plants, again with ivy growing all through them, which should have been trimmed or shaped at some point, but clearly never had been. Ivy is considered a pest in New Zealand, and we’ve been trying to clear as much of it from the property as we can. So, with the arrival of a bunch of beautiful new native plants, we decided it was time to get out in the garden.
This is what it looked like before:
The flax in the foreground is the only native plant in this photo.
This is what it looked like after we pulled out most of the random silver stuff and started putting in the new flax.
That’s as far as we got on Saturday, because it started to get dark, and we had plans for Saturday night– pizza and roller derby!
We bought an Entertainment Book this year, and one of the coupons was for Chicago Bar and Grill– right next to the TSB Arena where Wellington’s Richter City Roller Derby League plays. So we figured we’d get some pizzas with our buy one get one free coupon, and then head to the bout– Smash Malice vs. Brutal Pageant.
All in all, it was an awesome evening!
On Sunday, we braved the rain and headed to the veggie markets in town, stocking up with fresh produce for the week. And then we decided head back outside to the garden and keep planting, even in the rain. We left a bit of the silver stuff, just because it does smell nice, but we might take it out later.
I’m excited to see how the garden progresses as the new plants grow!
After our epic planting session in the rain, we headed inside and got to work making homemade pretzels, and then watched the Bruins game online. All in a all, a pretty excellent weekend!