Sunday, July 1, 2018

Art Book Preview

Some images from my art book "Caring Weapon" which I've been working on forever (11 years) nearly finished I think.


Monday, June 18, 2018

The Groom Stripped Naked by the Art World, even

"The Groom Stripped Naked by the Art World, even".
Painted by David Nicholls 2002.

This painting depicts an explorer, an astronaut, whose face is a "commune" of vulnerable human hearts. His head is protected by a traditional "Pa", a Maori fortification of fences that once protected warriors at the top of a hill. The Pa keeps out the art world represented by "sucking" vacuum cleaners. Clearly his freedom is severely restricted, he is "tied up", by his efforts to be safe.

   I did this while I was having an art exhibition, a process I was not really enjoying at the time.  

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Divaracating Coprosmas Best Goat Proof Hedge?

"Good fences make good neighbors"
-Robert Frost "Mending Wall"

I've spent a lot of time researching goat proof plants and have formulated the hypothesis that New Zealand divaricating Coprosma species are the best overall species for a barrier hedge to protect more vulnerable garden plants. Preventing the animals access to crops palatable but toxic to them, such as Avocado or Rhododendron arboreum (widely prized by humans for its edible flowers) is also a consideration.  I have only had limited practical testing of this but it has been positive so far.

The domestication of goats has resulted in extinction of many plants species and there is academic debate as to whether they or fire are more to blame for the general lack of forests in the Mediterranean. It is hard to tell if goats cause third world poverty or alleviate it, certainly there is a strong correlation between third world poverty and the occurrence of goats. There is no debate that they prevent the healthy regeneration of native bush in New Zealand, they also compete with humans for edible "weeds", making long distance motorized transportation of food more probable. Much like petroleum or booze the great digestive power of goats appears to offer the easy way. But like anything more powerful than us their effects are by definition difficult or impossible to control. Unless used with the greatest of prudence such addictive power actually makes life harder, even impossible in the end.

Awareness of the high potential indiscriminate destructiveness of goats has grown in recent years and fashion and legislation are slowly catching up. It has recently become illegal for your neighbors goats to be on your land even with your permission in Wellington (they must be confined to the owners property (assuming of course this wasn't careless wording, quite possibly they meant to say "goats must be confined to properties where they have permission to be")) but if dobbing in your neighbor to the Council is not your style I suggest resorting to the miraculous divaricating Coprosmas.

There are other divaricating native genera that also evolved to resist grazing by the extinct Moa, but I have not noticed them mentioned as survivors in studies of effects of wild goat infestation. The fashionable divaricating Meuhlenbekia  genus for instance does not seem to be nearly as resistant to introduced herbivores like goats.

Divaricating Coprosma are desirable because they are not actually poisonous to goats like many goat resistant plants such as Rhododendron or Avocado. It is the physical structure of the plants that prevents them from eating them, not taste or toxicity. This avoids psychological damage to the owner of the goats you are trying to keep out, and possibly even legal liability from deliberately planting a poisonous hedge to kill trespassing goats (I don't know if prosecution for this has ever happened but suppose it could).

In addition they are a dense, sturdy, wide plant that may be difficult or impossible for goats to penetrate, climb over, ring-bark or trample as they might with most other plants unpalatable to goats. I have seen divaricating Coprosmas largely untouched and undamaged in sheep and cattle farms, though they are found in relatively inaccessible spots, presumably where the young plants have had a chance to grow without being trampled.

In my experience goats do not eat small young divaricating Coprosma though tethered goats are likely to trample them to death with their erosion causing hooves, as they do many other plants unpalatable or toxic to them. It is likely goats tethered next to divaricating Coprosma with absolutely nothing else to eat would devote their lives to trying to eat it, whether they would succeed I don't have data.

Because of the tendancy of goats to trample plants to death these Coprosma will probably need fencing when young. I have a mesh fence 1.6 meters tall as a first defense with divaricating Coprosma behind them as second line of defense. Also this hopefully makes them out of sight and out of mind, they can still be quite intimidating and disturbing gawking mindlessly at your fruit and vegetables through a mesh fence even if they are really unable to do any physical harm. I have also planted my divaricating Coprosma close together, 1 meter apart at the most, to increase strength.

Divaricating Coprosmas grow in a wide variety of conditions, are fire retardant and most grow quickly to several meters tall. They are ornamental and berries of all Coprosmas are thought to be edible to humans, though not especially tasty in most cases. There is probably variation amongst the the divaricating Coprosmas in terms of efficacy against goats, I'm trying several. If they do turn out to be effective against goats the use of these plants as hedges may even be a small step towards peaceful co-existence between goats, gardens and native ecosystems, if that is possible.


Aside from personal observation of sheep and cattle farms in the Wellington area, and limited experience with tethered goats, I have based this 'thesis' on reports that divaricating Coprosma are found surviving in areas infested with wild goats such as:


Christchurch District Plan Site of Ecological Significance Site Significance Statement Site name: Kinloch Site number: SES/A/11 Physical address of site: 184 Kinloch Road, Little River

A drawing of a fence partitioning grazing land and forest based on rural Illinois, U.S.A., which I did when I lived there in about 1977 when I was about 12. Funny this is the oldest piece of my artwork that has survived, so has the theme. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Nelumbo in Wellington, New Zealand

The cold tolerant American Lotus, Nelumbo lutea, has grown passably well in my temperate Wellington city garden over several years. It has not flowered and is certainly not vigorous. The more well-known and frost tender Nelumbo nucifera did not grow at all although root stock did stay alive for years. These ones look a little tatty because water snails have been nibbling at them. I grew them in food grade black plastic tubs which raises the water temperature somewhat.

I think Nelumbo lutea would be worth trying for a tropical look and food crop in inland parts of New Zealand where temperatures are more extreme. It tolerates considerable cold but also seems to require high heat to flourish. It grows so tentatively where I am I hardly ever harvest it for its many culinary uses.

I checked with Ministry for Primary industries, it is legal to import seed of Nelumbo lutea because it is considered a subspecies of Nelumbo nucifera, even though only Nelumbo nucifera is listed in their Plants Biosecurity Index of importable and prohibited plants:

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Climbing a pylon wearing flares

An old discarded warning sign from an electricity pylon in Wellington, New Zealand, presumably from around 1970-75. Person climbing pylon is wearing flares. 

The extravagance/grandiosity of flares indicate high/inflated self-esteem. Climbing a power pylon indicates resulting reduction in self-control (according to self-regulation science discussed in recent post in this blog "Self-control for Self-sufficiency").  

Addiction to some form of power is a normal symptom of loss of self-control.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hylocereus costaricensis, sun, shade and cold

I recently tried growing six Hylocereus costaricensis cuttings attached to the external walls of a house as 'epiphytes' over winter in zone 9 (Wellington, New Zealand) . B & T World Seeds say they take zone 9, though most authorities say zone 10 or above. 

I put two of the Hylocereus costaricensis cuttings on a mostly sunny wall, two on a wall with half sun and two on a mostly shady wall. To my surprise the cuttings in the shady spot died, one of the cuttings in half-shade died, the other looks sick while the cuttings in full sun (one pictured with new spring growth) were fine, if a little sun burnt.

This result was the opposite of what I expected, usually  it is recommended to protect tender plants from sun if cold is expected as it is the sudden change in temperature when the sun hits them in the morning that usually kills them. Apparently not the case with this cactus and probably others like it. 

The cuttings on the sunny wall were also higher up than the others, it's possible more wind exposure and air circulation helped them to survive.

I don't yet know how well this plant grows here aside from surviving winter. According to Russell Fransham Subtropicals, where I got the plant, it needs sustained warmth over 15C to produce the delicious fruit. I may try getting it to grow on a black surface to raise the temperature if things don't seem to be going well. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Edibility of Eleocharis acuta

According to the very interesting Australian publication 'Plants of  the Merri Merri' (1) the "tubers" of Eleocharis acuta are edible "raw, baked or ground into flour" which would be quite exciting as the well known related Water Chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) is an edible tuber. But I can't find anything about this plant having tubers edible or otherwise, instead it only seems to have a creeping rhizome which I believe I have photographed the white tip of above.

My guess is this report, intended for the general reader not botanists, refers to this white rhizome tip which I find edible, the white part is soft without fibers, easily eaten. It tastes bland, starchy and innocuous, without the crunch or flavor of Water Chestnut. Tim Low reports "Aborigines ate the starch in the young underground stems" (2)  of the closely related Eleocharis sphacelata, this sounds like the same thing since a rhizome is a modified underground stem (3), I've not tried or examined Eleocharis sphacelata.

The rhizome tips I found were small and fairly sparse, they hardly seem worth it unless you have a lot of plants and time to harvest them, though the plant is particularly pleasing visually. I tried a New Zealand native of this plant, it is possible the rhizome is bigger in Australia but reports seem to be about the same, 1-2 mm in New Zealand ,1-3 mm in Australia. E sphacelata rhizomes sound more promising 10-15 cm, though I can't find any first-hand accounts of eating them.

Both Eleocharis acuta and Eleocharis sphacelata are native to New Zealand as well as Australia, but do not seem to have ever been reported as being eaten here in New Zealand.

(1) Plants of the Merri Merri. A Home Gardener's Guide to using Indigenous Plants in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne. Editor Rebecca Wigney 1994
(2) Wild Foods Plants of Australia. Tim Low. 1988.