Monday 20 May 2019

Seed Processing and Cleaning Equipment

Large amounts of seed need to be collected each year to grow native plants for Mt Chocolate.

With 220 different species to grow and plant, getting the right seed and germinating it can be quite a process.

Seed Processing Steps

  • Collection from the right plant during the right month
  • Drying the collected material
  • Separate the seed from husks, stalks and leafs
  • Washing and or cleaning the seed
  • Fermenting fruit mash for 3 days to kill bacteria and fungi at 20-24 C
  • Separate by washing and or cleaning
  • Drying again to a low moisture content
  • Storage in a container at the correct temperature and humidity

Seed Treatment Steps (possible)

  • Soak in water
  • Freeze
  • Heat up
  • Scarify hard seed coats eg Kowhai

Seed Sowing

  • Sow in seed trays and grow pots under cover.
  • Watch for seedlings last week of September.


So after doing this for a few years, I wondered if there was a way to make and use simple DIY equipment to help with seed processing. It turns out there is a way. Large commercial nurseries and crop farmers may process their own seed using specialist equipment which costs a bit.

Searching on Google, there are loads of small scale things you can make in a home workshop that will do the same job. I'm going to have a go. Below are links and videos to some of the stuff I found.

  • Realseeds (has plans for these air separating seed cleaners).
  • Kimseed (specialises in great equipment for labs and revegetation projects in Oz).

Monday 15 April 2019

Drone over Mt Chocolate

Mt Chocolate was filmed using a drone at 2pm, 23 March 2018.

The drone was flown by a friend of a neighbour. Thank you, mystery pilot, whoever you are.

Monday 8 April 2019

Cake Week Begins

Edinburgh has Fringe festival, Wellington has Wearable Arts and Mt Chocolate has Cake Week.

Each year from April 4, celebrate all birthdays by eating loads of cake.

Family. friends and neighbours, invite yourself for a bit. Cakes have been known to go visiting. You can even bring more cake to add to the week's fun.

Last year so much cake arrived that Cake Week turned into Cake Month.

Cake Week 2019 Begins

Cake Week 2019

And more cake arrived

We went to 2 cake enhanced events during the week which remain unrecorded but were massive.

And more cake kept arriving at home on Sunday.

 And then some more cake on Sunday

Then there was more cake with cream but it got eaten and the camera got forgotten. Thanks, Lesley and Martin.

The Steve & Rachel friends look blurry but the cake wasn't on Sunday evening.

Cake Week 2019 Results

  • We started with 2 cakes
  • Family and friends arrived with 5 cakes
  • All eaten

Saturday 6 April 2019

What Drives Forest Regeneration

A native plant restoration workshop attended by 70 people was held on Friday at the Invercargill Working Men's Club in the morning. A trip out to Otatara Community Nursery followed in the afternoon.

There is a report here.

I went to the workshop and learned a great deal about some very interesting trials and experiments underway around NZ to find faster and cheaper ways to get native ecosystems established. It was the best workshop/bus trip/field day I've been to since moving to Southland in 2014. It had a lot of meat in it. Hopefully, there will be more like this in future.

Her talk asked the right questions and is based on a monitoring programme of 20m x 10m plots around NZ measuring;
  • Basal Area.
  • Canopy Openness.
  • Soil Temperature Fluctuation.
  • Herbaceous Weeds.
  • Humidity Fluctuation.
  • Tree Regeneration Density.
  • Epiphyte Density.

There are a number of these plots around Invercargill. Here are 3 of Dr Wallace's slides from the talk.

Tracy and I are currently establishing a monitoring programme at Mt Chocolate to watch and study what happens over time as the bush regenerates and evolves into a Miro Swamp Forest. And we are also doing a lot of experiments with different propagation, planting, and maintenance methods to see what works best.

There are 3 broad zones at Mt Chocolate.
  • The north end is sunny and dry with thin clayish soil.
  • The middle is shady, cold, wet and sheltered from the wind with deep peat soil. It floods a lot in winter.
  • The south end is exposed, damp and windy with organic soil.

Adding a plot in each zone similar to the People Cities Nature programme could add a lot of insight into understanding natural processes present. A friend Matt is going to help with setting up the plots in winter. We will have to make up some gadgets as well to help make the measurements. Aunty Google will no doubt come up with plans for gadgets.

The afternoon field trip to Otatara visited a plot at Bushy Point and the Community Nursery. It was a really useful day.

Thursday 4 April 2019

Avon and Friends

Avon Peters

Photo by John Griffiths
Avon is the official Mt Chocolate Site Manager.

Much loved by local kids, she patrols the boundaries, for anyone she can smooch.

Some days, the neighbouring horses and her take turns racing each other along the boundary fence after a good bit of nose touching.

She also races her friends coming up the road on the other side of the fence, especially the local postie who dotes on Avon.

Avon plans to be mum to all chickens, ducklings and small puppies who wander past on an evening stroll.

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Phil Waddington on How to Set a Doc 200 Trap

Phil Waddington is the inventor of the DoC 200 trap which is widely used to catch pest animal predators of NZ native birds.

There is a great article about him on the Predator NZ website from 2018.

Predator Fee NZ has some recordings of Phil setting the traps safely on their YouTube Channel.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Omeo Test

Tracy testing the Omeo Wheelchair at Mt Chocolate on 18 March 2019. It handled the tracks easily. Thanks, Shannon Arnold for the bringing an Omeo for Tracy to try.

Monday 11 February 2019

Seaward Bush Scenic Reserve

Yesterday, Tracy, Avon and I went for a leisurely walk through Seaward Bush Scenic Reserve near Invercargill. This reserve is a small remnant of the Miro swamp forest that stretched from Clifton to Woodlands till 1905.

It was a stunning day so Tracy took lots of photos of plants and uploaded them to iNaturalist for identification.