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.
Photos taken of plants and animals found at Mt Chocolate are being used to discover what is living there now.
We are using a very easy tool called iNaturalist to help do this. It is a free app that can be downloaded onto a mobile phone and then be used to take photos. Some simple notes are added in the field at the time. The app then uses automated machine learning to guess what the plant or animal is. Other people using iNaturalist can also help work out what the correct name is.
So far 55 different observations have been made and most have been correctly identified. These include lots of the different weeds growing at Mt Chocolate and the growing number of native plants that have been planted.
Mt Chocolate is the name given to a 10,000 square meter paddock (1
Ha, or 2.5 acre).
Located on the edge of town in semi-rural
Clifton, a suburb in Invercargill, NZ. On one side are houses and on the other
Mt Chocolate was formerly pasture that had been over
grazed in recent years by horses and cattle. It was originally Miro
swamp forest that was burned by a major fire in 1905.
The land was purchased on August 1 2014 to build a family home and art studio for the owners Mike & Tracy Peters.
In September 2014, the entire paddock was sprayed with Glysophate to
kill all grass and weeds and to expose a mountain of buried rubbiish.
A loaned digger (back-hoe) from a neighbour was used to break up the
compacted soil and all buried rubbish was carefully removed. This took 2
Planting of NZ native species began in June 2015 in areas where the damaged soil structure had been repaired.
A native plant nursery has been established on site to grow 200
different plant species using Seaward Bush as the ecosystem template to
copy. Seaward Bush is a nearby forest remnant from the original fire and
has similar geography, climate, and soil.
The nursery grows an average of 1000 plants a year from seed which
are then usually planted in July and August during the winter.
Experimental planting trials are being used to find the most
efficient way to establish tall Miro swamp forest. The main experiment
is with using the native Poroporo as a nursery species to eliminate
competition from introduced grasses. The trials are also to work out
timing, the best combinations of species, the most effective use of
chemical control, and any feedback loops, etc.
There have also been experiments with plant propagation methods
including seed processing, watering, use of pine needles as acidifier
Mt Chocolate has a native plant nursery to propagate and grow 220 different species to plant at Mt Chocolate over time. The nursery does not sell plants to the public. Though we are happy to swap surplus eco-sourced seed with other propagators.
This year's production target is 2000 plants ready to plant next year.
Part of creating Mt Chocolate has been constructing a private access way in from Severn St to the future house and art studio. This road is 100m long, is built on clay and includes a turning circle.
A lot of time was spent in the last 24 months, scraping off the top soil for use elsewhere. This soil is a kind of peat and is not suitable under roads but great under trees. The clay however is quite hard and packs down well.
During the rainy months, especially winter, the clay gets very wet and goes puggy making use of heavy machinery difficult. All I had to use was a 1.5 Tonne digger (Back Hoe).
I went and talked to road construction workers in the area and watched while they worked to get an idea on how to do the job. I also asked 2 civil engineers for advice.
The common suggestion was to use "Base Course" from Edendale. This is basically big round river boulders and stones. It packs down very hard, but requires a bulldozer to shift and compact. It has to be delivered by very large twin axle trucks which would chew up the wet and now softened clay.
The solution I came up with was to use AP65 Dunite, an Olivine rock from a Greenhills quarry near Bluff. A 200mm layer of AP65 would need to be laid on top of Bidim Geotextile roading fabric which would lie on the clay. Another 50mm layer of AP40 Dunite would be laid on top of the AP65. Finally a layer of "Top Course" which is fine Dunite.
The small digger bucket could handle the quarried Dunite because of it's jagged shape.
All of these layers needed to be carefully laid using a small truck that carries 3 cubic meters, or 5.4 metric Tonnes. The truck driver had to back in and tip the aggregate without driving on the fabric. The small digger was placed on sheets of plywood on top of the Geotextile on top of the wet clay. The digger bucket was then used to pull the aggregate back over the roading fabric.
Everything was compacted as it was laid, first using the digger, then our 2 ton Toyota Prado, and finally the fully loaded delivery truck. The road will be compacted even more when the clay dries out in Summer.
The road is 4.5 meters wide and is 80% completed.
The whole job has gone really well. Not bad for a total beginner.
A big thank you to Chris the truck driver who delivered the aggregate, and Dave for the loan of the digger.
I would like to thank all the family, friends and neighbours who visited the recent Mt Chocolate exhibition to have a look, showed a lot of curiosity and got Mike thinking even more. 150 visited the exhibition during the week which was a good turnout given the location. In addition 20 attended (child and a parent together) a creative workshop by Mike for dyslexic minds.
Thanks are also given to;
Ari Edgecombe, Jan Ormsby, Frazer Murdoch, Steve Solomon and Elaine Matheson from the South Alive Arts Group for help with arranging and setting up the exhibition.
Nikki Aaron and Cress Evans from the office, Peggy Peek and Margaret Cook and the other South Alive Trustees for making the gallery available. Peggy for her wonderful welcome to guests at the opening.
is a small part of a larger cadestral or liand title map of the Province of Southland,
New Zealand, from official surveys till June 1865. This picture shows
the early land sections near Invercargill.
This afternoon I got this photo of a Ozothamnus vauvilliersii plant growing beside the Waituna Wetland near Bluff.
This plant is also known as Mountain Tauhinu or Mountain Cottonwood. It grows quite low down in the far south and likes dry sites. It will be a great native species to propagate and plant out on the north facing slopes of Mt Chocolate. There is more information available about this native plant.