So what’s the deal with all this seed swapping that’s propagating across our libraries? Well, it’s been growing quietly for a while, and I was there when it all began…
It all started just after the February 2011 earthquake, as so many other interesting projects did. When my usual library (the Central Library) was closed, I was reassigned along with my colleagues – first to emergency response related duties, and then to help out at other suburban libraries as they reopened and experienced increased patronage.
So, I found myself on a bus to Lyttelton! On my first day my new colleague Lizzie greeted me with “So you’re the person who gets all the new garden books on hold before me!” From that welcome followed many hours of gardening talk; through aftershocks, closures, and long Friday afternoon desk shifts (often involving customers in the discussion).
A bit before spring of 2011 Lizzie uttered the fateful words “Hey, we could do a seed swap!” and The Great Lyttelton Library Seed Swap was born. It has been brightening up our early spring days at Lyttelton ever since. Our swap has includes seeds and seedlings (and even baby fruit and native trees on occasion) and we have the Lyttelton Community Gardens on board too.
I left the libraries for four years, but couldn’t stay away and was delighted to discover on my return that not only had The Great Lyttelton Library Seed Swap thrived, but it had put out runners to Akaroa and Hornby Libraries – and this year, with the help and enthusiasm of Remy at Spreydon Library, it’s popping up at Spreydon and South libraries too! Check out the times and dates for your nearest seed swap now.
It’s nearly Spring (yay) and to celebrate the season of growing and greenery, we are hosting seed swaps. Bring in your leftover seeds to Lyttelton, Spreydon, South, Hornby or Akaroa Library and we’ll put them out to share.
We welcome vegetable, herb, flower, native, and heritage seeds. You can bring any spare potted-up seedlings. Seeds can be dropped in anytime before or during seed swap week. If you’re bringing in seedlings, please drop them off at the beginning of the week.
As the movie proves, it isn’t just books that inhabit Sheila’s world. It’s also wonder and passion for the natural world — plants, animals and rocks. This translates into writing and beautiful illustrations. The documentary shows so much — her love for the sea and sailing, honeymoon spent in the hut under Mt. Aoraki, the fun of learning Icelandic and swimming with seals, her close and dear friendship with Janet Frame in their formative days as young writers. Got the feeling? Who needs a TV and a car if you can enjoy a night camping under the stars and a bicycle tour from Picton to Bluff?
Sheila Natusch greatly contributed to the understanding of nature by writing and illustrating Animals of New Zealand, the first comprehensive reference guide on this subject. She carried on writing all her life, on nature and history. Sheila has her artistic talent (inherited from her mother and grandmother) to accompany her words with convincing yet soft illustrations. In 2007 she was awarded New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to writing and illustration.
Watching the movie, it is not hard to see what compelled producer Christine Dann and filmmaker Hugh MacDonald (Sheila’s cousin) to capture Sheila on film. With premieres rolling out in cinemas from Auckland all the way to Gore, they are both fully occupied these days, but Christine still found some time to reveal the backstory of this inspiring project.
When did the idea to make a documentary about Sheila become obvious and where did it come from?
Director Hugh Macdonald has known Sheila all his life and always wanted to make a film about her, as she is such a fascinating character, as well as a woman of great achievements. I knew about her achievements before Hugh introduced me to Sheila, and as soon as I met her knew she’d be a great film subject.
Sheila is such a cinematic character, her enthusiasm and love for life in all its forms is beaming from the screen. Her story and persona are perfect for a form of a film storytelling. What was your intention in making this documentary, besides portraying Sheila and telling her story (because it also is a film about nature, New Zealand, wonder, curiosity and passion)?
Hugh and I share Sheila’s love of nature and the wild places of New Zealand. We agree with her that they are a source of much joy and inspiration. In making a film about her we wanted to share some of that joy and inspiration via someone who embodies it.
You produced the documentary but also contributed as a researcher and writer. How long did your research take, what were the main resources you used?
The research for the film took about nine months, but that was spread over 18 months in time as it involved going to Dunedin twice, down the West Coast, and to Southland and Stewart Island. My written sources included Sheila’s letters to her parents in the 1940s, and to Professor Ramsey in the 1950s and 60s, plus all her published work, both books and articles. Of course I talked to Sheila a lot to check things out as needed.
Is there a funny story from behind the scenes, something that happened during filming that you could share with our readers?
There always seemed to be lots of surprises happening, mostly good ones – such as the completely unexpected delivery of a box of chilled mutton birds to Sheila’s place when we just happened to be there with the camera for other reasons – and that enabled us to shoot the scene in the Bach Cafe where Sheila takes them to her friend Maraea to cook up for them all.
The visit of the Ecuadorian navy sailing ship the Guayas to Wellington in January 2016 was another such good surprise, even though we had to scramble hard to get the filming organised
Sheila made nature and science accessible to New Zealanders in a user-friendly and encouraging way, especially with the Animals of New Zealand. However, she was to an extent criticized by scientists due to a lack of scientific language in her works. Why do you think that happened?
She was writing at a time when the scientific community (especially the Royal Society) was trying to raise the status of science as a profession of experts who communicated largely with each other, rather than the general public. Sheila has always believed that knowledge about nature needs to be shared as widely as possible, and that means writing in non-technical, jargon-free and also lyrical ways.
Sheila is extraordinarily talented in so many different ways: she is an amazing self-taught illustrator as well as a writer, she has a great passion, understanding and an eye for the natural world, she is a researcher and an “outdoor pioneer-ess”. And she managed – it seems like all throughout her life – to nurture and develop all those talents, which must have been quite hard in those days.
Sheila is not only very intelligent, she’s also very determined, so although she was certainly knocked back and excluded from some things she wanted to do, or ways she wanted to do them, she just kept on pushing until she found a way around the obstacle.
Which is your favourite motto or a thought from Sheila’s wise yet witty repertoire of thoughts?
Too hard to choose! But in the film you’ll hear her say several times that you have to ‘keep on keeping on’ when challenges arise, and that’s a good advice.
I was very delighted, when I realised that Sheila quotes Walt Whitman in her introduction to Animals of New Zealand (his poem The beasts, which talks about the animals). I wonder if she ever in your conversations revealed her fondness for any other authors and who were they?
She has a big library of books on ships and sailing, and likes novels and poems about the sea and life on it. She can remember a lot of songs and poems from her early years with a sea theme, such as John Masefield’s Cargoes. She’s pretty good on Shakespeare as well.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about Sheila and your movie?
It has been very rewarding for Hugh and me to share our enjoyment of Sheila, and her enjoyment of life, through this film, and find that is (as we hoped) resonating deeply with other people.
Sheila’s story told through the camera lens is full of curiosity and wonder for nature and great outdoors that surround us. It proves that those who observe and see, will be rewarded greatly – with life-long beauty and content. Make sure you see it!
Congratulations to our two Highly Commended entries who will each receive a library goody bag.
Congratulations to our talented finalists! We have certificates for our finalists; they are ready for you to pick up at Papanui Library after 9am on Saturday 22 July – please contact us at LibraryEvents@ccc.govt.nz to organise delivery if you are unable to pick-up.
Congratulations to our talented finalists! We have certificates for all our finalists; they are ready for you to pick up at Papanui Library after 9am on Monday 17 July – please contact us at LibraryEvents@ccc.govt.nz to organise pickup or delivery.
These entries are on display at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre during the July school holidays as part of KidsFest.
The train was already late when it arrived at Arthur’s Pass on the morning of 30 July 1933.
On board were members of three different tramping clubs, including those of the Canterbury Mountaineering Club and the Canterbury College University Tramping Club. Undeterred by the bad weather which had already set in, a disorganised mass of nearly forty individuals with no real leadership set out to climb Avalanche Peak. By the time they reached the snowline only twenty members remained, the others having already turned back. Although visibility was by now greatly reduced, they pushed on into the falling snow and driving wind. At the forefront were two experienced climbers, Andrew Anderson and William Brough. When they were nearly two hundred feet from the summit the mountain finally lived up to its name.
An avalanche crashed down the slope, knocking them over and scattering equipment. After checking to see if anyone was missing, the rest of the party decided to turn back, leaving Anderson and Brough to summit on their own. They were successful and managed to safely descend to the village at Arthur’s Pass. There they joined the rest of the club members in boarding the return train to Christchurch.
It wasn’t until the train had left the station that people finally realised that Samuel Edgar Russell, a university student, was missing. Some club members disembarked at Springfield station and caught a ride on a truck back to Arthur’s Pass where they began to organise a search. Teams of climbers scoured the mountain over the next few days, but it wasn’t until August 6 that Russell’s body was found buried by the avalanche. His tragic death served to highlight the dangers that awaited those who ventured into Canterbury’s mountains, regardless of how well equipped and experienced one might be.
Kā Tiritiri-o-te-Moana, the Southern Alps.
The earliest account of mountaineering in Canterbury is attributed to a Ngāti Wairangi woman, Raureka, and her slave companion, Kapakeha. In 1700, after a disagreement with her community, they crossed the Southern Alps at a point which today is known as Noti Raureka-Browning Pass. Their chance encounter with a party of Ngāi Tahu led to the establishment of the pounamu trade between the east and west coast tribes. The increase in this trade prompted the discovery of further mountain passes. Sustained by a sparse diet of dried berries, eels and weka, the explorers journeyed into these remote heights did so with only flax ropes and sandals as a means of overcoming the inhospitable terrain.
Following the European settlement of Canterbury, surveyors such as Arthur Dobson, often accompanied by Māori guides, followed these pre-established routes into the Southern Alps to map the terrain for the local government. Despite these initial forays, it wasn’t until the end of the nineteenth century that mountaineering came to be considered a recreational activity. This was largely due to the efforts of Cantabrians such as George Edward Mannering and Arthur Paul Harper. Not wishing to see the peaks of the Southern Alps conquered by foreigners, they set about developing a New Zealand tradition of mountaineering which they disseminated through works such as Mannering’s With Axe and Rope in the New Zealand Alps(1891).
Their efforts led to the formation of the New Zealand Alpine Club in 1891, the first meeting of which was held in Warner’s Hotel in Cathedral Square. The aim of the club was to teach the mountaineering methods that were practiced in the European Alps, gather geographical knowledge of New Zealand’s mountains, and establish routes. In December that year, Mannering led the first expedition to summit low peak on Mount Rolleston near Arthur’s Pass (however the mountain wasn’t successfully climbed until 1912).
The Headquarters of Mountaineering in Canterbury
In 1923 the Midland Railway line, which followed the old coach road from Christchurch to Greymouth, was officially opened. The mountains surrounding the village of Arthur’s Pass were now easily accessible to those trampers who, having tested themselves on the Port Hills, now wished to advance to more strenuous challenges. As such, the region soon became known as the “headquarters of mountaineering in Canterbury” and in 1925 the Canterbury Mountaineering Club was formed. However, the glory of climbing the highest peak in the region, Mount Murchison, had already been attained in 1913 by Charles Ward and Arthur Talbot.
Affordable train fares to Arthur’s Pass only served to attract further visitors to the settlement, with 20,000 people visiting in 1927. However, the sudden influx of visitors began to take its toll on the local environment. A common complaint was the habit of visitors to pick mountain flowers, often taking more than was necessary. In 1928, Guy Butler, who had opened the Arthur’s Pass Hostel in 1926, petitioned for the region to receive official protection. In 1929 the area was designated as a national park, the first in the South Island.
Since then the village has continued to draw visitors, both local and foreign, who use it as a base from which to venture forth into the surrounding mountains. While many are fortunate enough to make frequent return journeys, for others, such as Samuel Edgar Russell, the mountains can prove fatal.
What a dismal day it was here in Ōtautahi the other Sunday. Raining and cold. I really did not feel like going outside and working in the māra. However, the day was clearing and I had my Pirita to sow.
In an effort to boost diversity and bring native birds back into the city, Christchurch City Council have launched a Citizen Science Project. The Backyard Mistletoe Project is a city wide project that encourages people to sow native mistletoe in their backyards. 9000 Pirita seeds have been harvested from Banks Peninsula and distributed to 450 eager Christchurch gardeners.
Each gardener has registered with CCC and has committed to sowing and monitoring 20 seeds. With a success rate of 5% we will be lucky if one plant germinates from 20 seeds.
My friend Sally and I registered. She collected our seeds from the Botanic Gardens. They had to be sown the following day. So out into the cold, wet garden I traipsed looking for bare branches of appropriate host trees to sow these tiny taonga.
Meanwhile, my devoted little gardening pal Buddy Boy elected to remain inside. Curled up tight, asleep on the bed.
Although seed sowing registration has now closed, anyone interested can still register online to follow the projects progress.
In her new book, Seeds of Hope, Jane champions the cause of plants. A spiritual call to humankind to avert the looming crisis in nature, backed with scientific authority. Jane reminds us that all animals are reliant on the delicate balance of flora and fauna, at risk from factory farming, destruction of habitats and genetic engineering.
Incredibly decorated, (thirty three awards at last count), Dame Jane’s accolades include the Order of the Golden Ark (1980) for World Wildlife Conservation, The Encyclopaedia Brittannica Award (1989) for Excellence on the Dissemination of Learning for the Benefit of Mankind), the Rainforest Alliance Champion Award (1993), the Commander of the Order or the British Empire (1995) and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science (2003) to name a few.