Mai rānō – Way back when…

Nau mai e ngā hua o te wao
o te ngakina
o te wai tai
o te wai Māori
Nā Tāne
Nā Rongo
Nā Tangaroa
Nā Maru
Ko Ranginui e tū iho nei
Ko Papatūānuku e takoto nei
Tūturu whakamaua kia tina
Tina, haumi ē, hui ē, tāiki ē!

Welcome the gifts of food,
from the sacred forests,
from the cultivated gardens,
from the sea,
from the fresh waters.
The food of Tāne,
of Rongo,
of Tangaroa,
of Maru. 
I acknowledge Ranginui above me,
Papatūānuku who lies beneath. 
Let this be my commitment to them all!

Janna with some ponga ferns

Growing up in the 60s the tamariki in my whānau worked alongside our mum and dad. Together we worked on our market gardens in Tāmaki Makaurau. West Auckland. Every day, rain, hail or shine the whole whānau would be out there, doing our bit. Mahi Māra. Working in the garden.

Dad would rise at 4am and start his mahi for the day. We’d watch him spray with water the packed produce in their wooden apple boxes. Then he’d lift the load onto the small wooden deck of our taraka. A tiny Morris Minor 1000. After parakuihi – breakfast, we’d scramble aboard, each choosing an apple box to ride within. Dad would light his ciggie and settle in behind the drivers’ wheel. While the rest of the world was still sleeping we’d fly through the streets on our trusty wooden steeds towards the tense and bustling world of the early morning markets. Turner’s and Growers. Downtown Auckland.

I can still hear the screech of the karoro and tarāpunga as they greeted the fishing boats. Just like me, the gulls delighted in the early morning commotion. He kanohi kitea te karawhiu. To see their little faces every morning was the norm.

After the morning’s auctions we would return home to get ready for school, perhaps with a box of apples, bananas or oranges, sometimes even a crate of watermelon. All kai was shared with our whānau whānui, our extended whānau. The māra was our life, we lived according to the seasons and according to how well our produce sold.

Dad, being an immigrant from Naples, Italy, grew exotic huawhenua. Vegetables such as Capsicum, Spinach, Aubergine, Italian Parsley, Radish, Globe Artichoke, Acid Free Italian tomatoes, Basil, Garlic. He even harvested the marrows before they grew to their full size. Unheard of in those days, we now have a name for immature marrows. Courgettes. Occasionally, for lunch, dad would snap a few flowers off the marrow plant, heat some olive oil in our dinged up fry pan and after sautéing garlic he would add the beautiful yellow flowers for 2-3 minutes. Add a sprinkle of salt. Courgette Napolitano style! Kai tino pai!

Mum, on the other hand, introduced us to kaimoana. We never went hungry with the bountiful Waitematā Harbour on our back doorstep. In the weekends or after school, up onto the tray of our taraka, along with e toru ngā kuri, our three dogs Sookie, Andy and Prince, us kids would jump and off to the beach we’d head. No problem if we forgot our kete. Plenty of harakeke growing on the side of the road. If need be, we’d pull over beside a flax bush and mum would whip up a kete to carry our kaimoana. Pipi, Toheroa , Kina, Kūtai, Pūpū,Tio repe. Sometimes we’d take a line and catch a tāmure or two. In those days the sea was clean and kaimoana was abundant. On the way home we’d stop again for a dose of Kawakawa. No one escaped chewing and swallowing the bitter green medicinal leaf.

Janna’s cat Buddy supervises some peastraw.

These memories, although more than fifty years old, are part of the essence that informs my love of gardening today. Ia rā, ia rā, everyday I garden with my cat Buddy. My love of the sea and all that resides within it is tino hōhonu. Deep and profound.

For those of you who love gardening as well, check out our seed swap

Try browsing these lists of my favourite Mahi Māra and Rongoā Māori pukapuka!

Janna Russo,
Network Library Assistant

From tiny seeds… The origins of The Great Library Seed Swap

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.

Jo
Lyttelton Library

The Mud Club: Gardening eMagazines

If your garden is anything like mine, gardening would be a wet and muddy and not that appealing. So container gardening or planning is as far as I am willing to go at the moment. The library has heaps of eMagazines that you can borrow free via RBdigital Magazines or PressReader.

To celebrate the season of growing and greenery, in September 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. Find out more.

Swap seeds at your library this spring – The Great Library Seed Swap

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.

Daisy

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.

The Great Library Seed Swap at Lyttelton Library

Monday 4 September to Saturday 9 September
Find out more.

The Great Library Seed Swap at Spreydon Library

Saturday 9 September 10am to 1pm
Find out more.

While swapping seeds check out Gardening for Everyone & Anyone – Food Resiliency in Urban Environments, 10.30am to 11.30am

The Great Library Seed Swap at Hornby Library

Saturday 9 September 10am to 12pm and Monday 11 September 2pm to 5pm
Find out more.

The Great Library Seed Swap at South Library

Saturday 9 September 10.30am to 1pm; Sunday 10 September 10.30am to 1pm
Find out more.

The Great Library Seed Swap at Akaroa Library

Monday 11 September to Saturday 16 September
Find out more.

There ares plenty more green-fingered resources at your libraries. Take a look at our page about gardens and gardening and explore the books, magazines, and eMagazines in our collection.

Mahi māra – Gardening – A labour of love

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.

Seeds
Pirita/green mistletoe seeds

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.

Buddy
Unhelpful gardening pal

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.

More information

Living by the moon: Wiremu Tāwhai’s legacy

Cover of Living by the moonLiving by the Moon – Te Maramataka o Te Whānau-a-Apanui

In 2014 this amazing little book was released. Beginning it’s life as a MA thesis at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. Sadly Pāpā Wiremu passed away before the book was published however with the kind permission of the Tāwhai whānau it was published by Huia publishers. It is a wealth of information for old and young, Māori and non-Māori.

The following is a review I wrote for Te Karaka edition #61 Kahuru 2014 (and reproduced by permission here)

Ko te Kuti, ko te Wera, ko te Haua, e ko Apanui…!

Every now and then you get the opportunity to read a book that not only leaves you feeling privileged to have read it, but more importantly, wiser for having done so. Living by the Moon – Te Maramataka o Te Whānau-a-Apanui is one such book.

Written by the late Wiremu “Bill” Tāwhai, a well-respected kaumātua of Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Whakatōhea and Ngāti Awa, it is a collation of Te Whānau-a-Ruataia inter-generational knowledge pertaining to Te Whānau-a-Apanui lunar calendar. Long before shopping malls, smart phones, “Uncle Google”, and social media, our tipuna planned their lives by the lunar calendar. Every iwi had one. Knowing the lunar cycle, understanding how it affects your environment, and your competence to analyse and interpret correctly those effects, determined your ability to hunt, grow, and gather food. Thanks to Wiremu’s natural skill as an orator, this knowledge is conveyed in a way that is not only easily understood but leaves the reader feeling as though they are sitting with him. It took me back to a time when I was young and would sit with my own father listening to tribal kōrero.

Sadly, Wiremu Tāwhai died on 2 December 2010, before his book, which began as his MA thesis for Te Whare Wānanga o Te Awanuiārangi, was published. However, he left various legacies for future readers within his text. These included the consideration of what is to become traditional wisdom and knowledge such as the maramataka, reminding us of their importance “to sustain a healthy environment for the enjoyment of generations to come.” Encouraging words for all Māori to research their tribal knowledge, build tribal repositories, and openly share this knowledge among tribes and internationally with other indigenous nations.

His final words are for his people of Te Whānau-a-Apanui, encouraging them to continue the exploration of their traditional knowledge basis, record their findings and therefore ensure the distinctiveness and character of the tribe will endure.

Living by the Moon is beautifully written in both Māori and English. As Joan Metge notes in her forward:

Wiremu Tāwhai demonstrates his own gifts as a word-weaver… the rewards [of this book] are greats when the texts are read side by side, paragraph by paragraph.Taken together, they complement and illuminate each other.

Doing this makes the book an easy read, with an insight into a world that once was and that many are now returning to.  It is certainly one book I will return to again and again, even just for the pleasure of reading it.

E Tā, ka rere āmiomio atu te whakamiha ki a koe e te huia kaimanawa mō tēnei taonga i tākoha mai nei.  Māringanui katoa mātou i tōu tiro whakamua i tō whare kōrero kua whakakaohia e koe, hei taonga whakamahi mō ngā uri whakaheke e manakotia mai ana ki ēnei mea.  Nā reira e Tā, ahakoa kua riro koe ki te manaakitanga o rātou mā, ā, e ora tonu ana tōu owha, te owha nā ngā tipuna.  Āpōpō ko te Rakaunui te tīmatatanga o te maramataka hou hei arahi i tō rahi.

Further reading

Canterbury – a hive of activity for 165 years

165 years ago this January, a ship called the Mary arrived in Lyttelton bringing two hives of honey bees from Nelson.

The history of introduced bees in New Zealand is unusually linked with women named Mary. Back in 1839, a woman called Mary Bumby first brought European bees to New Zealand. Miss Bumby, with her appropriately bee-ish name, was the sister of a missionary, and she was bee-autiful:

“A vision of delight. Soft brown hair, worn in ringlets after the fashion of that time, a complexion that entitled her to the name of the ‘Bonny English Rose’ and a smile that lighted up gentle hazel eyes, out of which beaned only loving thoughts.” ‘The Immigrant Bees‘ Peter Barrett (p77).

How she managed to keep a hive of bees alive on a ship for the seven month journey with only loving thoughts in her head, I can only wonder. Mary Bumby and her bees buzzed into Hokianga harbour in March 1839. Before then, we were not entirely bee-reft of bees – New Zealand has 28 species of native bees, but they weren’t great for making commercial honey. And kiwis are sweet on their honey – on average, we eat about 1.5kgs of honey a year – each!

Three years later in 1842, bees arrived the South Island. They were sent over from London by Mrs Mary Anne Allom and sailed into Nelson alive and well. Her reason for sending them over is remarkable:

“My son formed one of the ten cadets who sailed last year for Wellington. After he was gone, I began to reflect upon the many things he would feel at a loss for when he arrived, one among the many, butter; this, I thought might be remedied by substituting honey, when I found there was no bees, at least honeybees, in New Zealand, I accordingly determined that I would send some.” p95, The Immigrant Bees.

Some parents send money to their kids on their OE – Mary Ann Allom sent a colony of bees. You only hope her son (Albert James Allom, who was 16 when he left home and his mother in London) appreciated the effort. The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Adelphi, London certainly did – and awarded her with the silver Isis medal in 1845 for her successful introduction of the bees.

It could well have been descendants of these bees that were sent down to Canterbury by yet another Mary – this time it was the ship Mary, a schooner from Nelson to Lyttelton that arrived on January the 10th 1852 with two bee hives on board. (See the newspaper article in the Lyttelton Times, 17th January 1852 on PapersPast.)

From there, bees have spread through the rest of New Zealand. Māori were the first commercial beekeepers; by the 1860s they were selling large quantities of honey from bee nests in the bush. William Charles Cotton, dubbed the Grand Beekeper in New Zealand, published many books about beekeeping including one entirely in te reo Māori ‘Ko Nga Pī’ (The bees).

For the buzz on bees:
Comb through our catalogue for books about bees or beekeeping.

Cover of 'Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand'Cover of 'In Praise of Bees' by Alizaeth BirchallCover of 'The Honey Spinner' On the Trail of Ancient Honey, Vanishing Bees, and the Politics of Liquid Gold

Search for local beekeeping clubs on CINCH.

Photo of the Canterbury Bee-keepers’ Association, 1912
Canterbury Bee-keepers’ Association. The annual field day of the Canterbury Bee-keepers Association was held on February 27, at the apiary of Mr A. Ireland, the president, at Brookside. The situation is an ideal one for an apiary, being well sheltered by a belt of trees, while clover fields are within easy reach of the apiary. The President’s Apiary [bottom photo]. Members of the Association [top photo].
Swarm these eResources for more about bees:

  • NZ National Geographic Archive –  archive of New Zealand Geographic Magazine with all the articles and images.
  • NZGeo TV – contains hundreds of hours of natural history videos much of which is focused on New Zealand’s people, places, wildlife and environment.
  • Agricultural Collection – wide-ranging agricultural information, from practical aspects to scientific research.
  • Gardening, Landscape and Horticulture Collection – key issues in gardening, landscaping, and other areas of horticulture. Practical aspects as well as the scientific theory.
  • GreenFile – a collection of scholarly, governmental and general interest titles which examine the environmental effects of individuals, corporations and local/national governments, and what can be done to minimise these effects.

Gardening in the best possible taste

Cover of Grow for flavourNothing makes my day like a “hold available” notification from CCL for a crisp new garden book, and this week I got my hands on a real gem. Grow for Flavour by James Wong (of Grow Your Own Drugs fame – not nearly as dodgy as it sounds) is a fresh ray of light in a forest of glossy gardening books that look pretty, but can sometimes be a bit guilty of repeating much the same information.

Don’t get me wrong, Grow for Flavour is very a attractive volume indeed (who can resist an author who photographs his Star Wars figurines in his garden shots?), but it’s not just a pretty publication. It’s full of interesting facts and innovative ideas for getting the best flavours out of your home produce.

Wong argues that much of our gardening ‘wisdom’ is based on (British) Victorian gardening practice – essentially the time when yield was beginning to be prized over flavour, a sad trend that’s come to its lacklustre fruition in our supermarkets today. This book is a strike back in defense of taste. It’s full of simple ways to boost flavour in all sort of fruit and vege crops – and the thing I love best is that all of its tips are firmly rooted in science. (You see what I did there?)

Yep, Wong is a scientist as well as a herbalist and a gardener, which means that his observations, remedies and treatments all have solid scientific research behind them – a nice change in this subject area, where solutions are so often presented without a lick of evidence stronger than “Well my great Aunt Hilda swears by it!”

It’s one of those books I think my partner secretly hates. Inevitably, when I get hold of a volume like this, his quiet evening will be peppered with interruptions along the lines of “Hey, did you know I hate coriander because I have the OR6A2 gene that makes it taste like soap and bleach?” or “Can I turn the laundry bin into a fungus farm?” It’s not uncommon for these exclamations to turn completely nonsensical, like “Aspirin and molasses on tomatoes? Genius!” (Well, it made sense to me…)

We’re well into planting season now, so grab a copy today. You too can be making inscrutable garden related exclamations in no time…

Down in the Vege Patch

Right about now the seedlings from your Supermarket mini gardens and garden centres are basking their leaves in the delicious spring sunshine. Leafy and bursting to stretch their legs, so let’s roll up our sleeves.

mini garden seedlings

Whether you are an experienced gardener or have had your interest piqued recently by the spring buzz, anyone and everyone can enjoy the satisfaction of a homegrown feast.

What better way to save money and guarantee a supply of nutrient rich food for you and your family, then by growing it yourself! Crops in pots, in the ground, with all day sun, or partial shade – it is amazing what you can grow in any situation.

I am into my third summer as a small garden novice and I am pleased to say, my results have bloomed by knowing a small number of essential tips and tricks.

As with any endeavour for me, my first stop was a good browse on the net. We are all familiar with hypnotizing rabbit hole that this can become. There seems to be a growing (excuse the pun) number of blogs with tips, ideas, inspiration and advise. Inspiration and ideas are a key part of why we enjoy getting into our little patch of soil, however unchecked advice or misinformation can lead to frustrations and a long walk up the proverbial garden path.

Much like falling back to my trusty watering can and hoe, I find myself tapping into tried, tested and published sources that allow me to pick the brains of the experts. If you can imagine it, our libraries have a gardening book, magazine, or journal that will provide everything you could possibly want to know. This year I want to try organic pest control and fertilizers, how about you?

Now let’s get those seedlings into the ground.

Suggested reads

For more inspiration and garden paths of discovery, go to our Gardening page or check out these beauties –
Cover of Edible landscaping Cover of Creative vegetable gardening Cover of Organic gardening Cover of The urban kitchen gardener Grown your own vegetables in pots Cover of Garden inspirations Cover of new small garden

 

Christchurch Botanic Gardens Children’s Paddling Pool: Picturing Canterbury

Christchurch Botanic Gardens Children's Paddling Pool with Stds 5 & 6 Spreydon School 1946.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens Children’s Paddling Pool with Stds 5 & 6 Spreydon School on an outdoor education class, 1946. File Reference: PH13-256.jpg. Kete Christchurch, CC BY-NC-SA 3.00 NZ. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt.

In August 1946 the Christchurch Domains Board was abolished and the Botanic gardens and Hagley Park were handed over to the Christchurch City Council.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.