Sunday, November 7, 2010


Raoni and pine on a misty morning

Below my house, on the cliff edge (and probably preventing the cliff from eroding into the sea) is a solid bank of rather funereal pine trees. They obscure what would otherwise be a remarkable view. The land belongs to Cholmondeley Children's Home so I can't deal to the pines as I would like - and anyway it would be far too expensive. But over the last few years, with permission from Cholmondeley, I have had some topped. 

It is tricky work. The trees are large and growing on a vertical, clay cliff.  All the 'rubbish' has to be removed - lots of mulching. Raoni and his team do a great job. When he is not working as part of his Four Seasons Tree Care business, Raoni trains Greenpeace activists in abseiling techniques - in preparation for protests on high buildings or the sides of large ships (I like this connection).

My aim is to try and encourage the regeneration of native plants on the cliff. Nothing regenerates under the pines but open up the canopy and seedlings are quick to appear. I have planted 15 cabbage trees along the very edge of the cliff. They are deep rooted and will (hopefully) help with erosion control.

The recent removal of another small group of pines (small group not small pines!) resulted in this pile of wood. Yesterday a friend in Governors Bay, who had hired a log splitter to deal to his very large gum logs, came round to address my pile. Five hours and a great deal of noisy hard work later, we had a pile of split wood which will hopefully dry out sufficiently over summer to be stacked and used on the log burner next winter.

There was something both intriguing and disconcerting about watching the splitter in action. I felt a sadness and some guilt about my role in the felling of these trees (mediated by the knowledge that they are pesky commercial imports which do nothing for our indigenous landscape and birds). The logs were still fresh - full of moisture. The wood was so dense and even the power of the splitter struggled with the large knots. On the underside of the dark bark were wonderful reds, creams and oranges.  I loved the logs that were full of sticky resin, knowing already how brightly they will burn in winter. My job was to catch the split logs and add them to the stack which, towards the end of the day was looking something like this...


  1. We call it petrol wood when the log is thick with resin. The firebox sends out such intense heat that I'm sure it is going to explode. I love sniffing the split logs. The resin gives me a high, lol!
    Ummmm are the pukeko chicks hiding out in those logs somewhere???

  2. Yes, I'm a sniffer too. Next best thing after vivid pens! I knew someone wouldn't forget about the pukekos!!

  3. Apparently burning dry wood is carbon neutral. Satisfying hard work isn't it .. and a comfortable feeling to know you are prepared against the elements next winter. :)

  4. I've discovered our loblollies are commercial imports, as well. Sad but true. I had no idea until recently---because they are everywhere in Georgia.

    Do you know what kind of pines yours are? More power to your efforts at native plantings. Imports or not, your first photo of the pines in the mist is beautiful---makes me want to see the view Raoni is seeing.

    Photos in your sidebar are also lovely. Is everyone in NZ a skilled photographer? Or is it that you can't go wrong with scenery like that all around you? I'm thinking of some on Niki's blog, too.

    We just returned from a west coast vacation where we stayed at Olallieberry Inn, which made me think of your fondness for the word loblolly. According to our innkeeper, an olallieberry is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry---a commercial hybrid designed in the 1950s---for making jams---but I knew you'd like the word.

    Olallie was the word for berry to the native people of the west coast. Hence, the literal meaning of olallieberry is berryberry.

  5. I can see myself walking round saying "loblolly, olallie, loblolly, olallie...' ;-) I have never heard of Olallieberries. The exotic pines most often grown here are pinus radiata. Very quick growing, they are planted in huge commercial plantations. They seed and colonise easily. We have a major problem in NZ with exotics - gorse is particularly bad - that compete with native flora.

    Whereabouts on the West Coast is the Olallieberry Inn??

  6. Exactly what happened here---loblollies replaced the more desirable southern yellow longleaf pines, which are now endangered.

    Olallieberry Inn is in Cambria, California. A lovely B&B. Here's the link.