Tag Archives: wasps

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 10

174 Morrison Road, Pukekawa, New Zealand

April 2010 – January 2012

This home was fifteen minutes’ drive from the previous house, and we moved furniture and belongings ourselves. Never again!

Of all the houses I have lived in this would probably be my favourite. It was built by a man who had only one leg, was a friend of the Rockefellers in America, and had sold the house to a family that bred exotic parrots and let them fly freely around the mature trees that were growing inside the three-story house. The trees in the garden outside grew close to the windows. You could almost reach out and touch the many bird nests. It was like living in a tree house, and the trees weren’t ordinary; they were spectacular flowering exotics. My favourite was the heavily flowering lacy pepper tree, but the China Doll trees, especially their straggly seed pods, were a delight. Flowering cherries abounded.

The house was huge. The staircase was so grand one almost felt it would be a travesty not to don a ball gown to ascend and descend. All was set on quite a few acres of land, some of which was rented out to a local farmer to graze cows. The carpet inside where the pots for the trees had stood was in a grotty state. But things had been majestically planned – even the balcony that surrounded the house on three sides. There was a huge fishpond that leaked and was empty, over which went a rustic bridge.

The vegetable garden stretched from one end of the section to the other and it was a wilderness. Next to the garden was a hen house and run. It was there that we stored our firewood because I had given away the poultry in the house move. We needed all the firewood we could get because the house had two greedy log burners.

When we took the property we had been assured that mobile phone coverage and high speed broadband were available. Once we came to set things up there was no such thing. Even from the roof of this tall building the broadcasting masts could not be seen. We wrote to the Minister of Broadcasting, who replied that they had no intention of laying cables down Morrison Road. The only thing for it was to pay for expensive satellite coverage.

The house being made of unpainted wood was a great attraction to paper wasps. Paper wasps would dance along wooden bannisters presumably collecting cellulose to make their bulbous nests. Once a week I would tour the “estate” with a can of fly spray to destroy newly created nests.

The house was made for Christmas! And we had many a celebration and many a guest.

In the meantime the dog and the cat were enjoying their new territory. Pussy Cat was entered into a weekly pet food photo competition, and her photo won the weekly competition six times in all, and that paid to feed both cat and dog for a year. She had the advantage of being photogenic because the white markings on her face were balanced on both sides. Delia the dog had her own popular website and would message her fans. “Please don’t tell my owner that I’m using his computer in the middle of the night.” Delia had quite a following!

One side of the house opened directly onto farm paddocks so we were not infrequently spied upon by inquisitive viewers.

The grounds had been let go to ruin a little, so it was a lot of work recreating almost a park. These days, having a peek at satellite online imagery, the trees have been cut down and a swimming pool has taken their place. It has somehow lost its wonderful charm but can now be seen and admired and fawned upon from the road.

People from our former road of Allen & Eyre came to visit. They lived just up the road from where we had lived. They had a proposition. The husband had been offered a farming job several hours away from where they lived. The new job came with a house on the farm. Would we like to rent their house for a price no higher than their mortgage? Their isolated house now had broadband. It was a tempting offer. We had long been wishing to save to one day get our own home. This was an offer, plus the thought of not paying expensive satellite connectivity, that called for common sense. We said yes even though we were reluctant to leave this wonderful place in Morrison Road.

1590. Wasps and things

(The photograph is of Paper Wasps at my front door! No, I didn’t leave them there! But look how organized they are – soldiers, guards, collectors, builders… !)

Garrett was eleven years old. He liked spiders and bugs and stuff. Goodness knows how many insects had perished as he kept them as pets trying to work out the parameters. What do they eat? Where do they live? Under what conditions do they thrive? So far, he had had little luck in keeping insects as pets; except for tarantulas, and with eight legs and not six they were better off being called spiders. Besides, how to keep a pet tarantula was well documented. Also ants. He had an ants’ nest behind glass and he fed them bread soaked in sugared water. They seemed to thrive.

Of course, he also cared for monarch butterfly caterpillars. He knew what they fed on, but for the last couple of years he’d grown a little tired of them. They were so commonplace. No! What he wanted was to keep scorpions, and bumblebees, and grasshoppers, and wasps, and… different things.

As luck would have it, once he visited the insect department of the local museum at the same time as a visiting entomologist. Professor Marinko Magyar was one of the country’s leading experts. He specialized in native species of bees, but he knew an awful lot about other sorts of insects. Garrett told him of the difficulty he had in keeping insects as pets.

The professor could not have been more helpful. In fact, he was so delighted that a young person was enraptured by insects that he offered to help Garrett set up a bumblebee’s nest. It was wonderful! Under a removable wooden lid, the bees were behind glass so everything could be observed. A polythene pipe opened to the outside world where the bumble bees could freely come and go to collect pollen and whatever it was they collected. It was a lot of work setting it up, but the professor enjoyed helping the young lad who had shown such interest.

Next, the professor showed Garrett how to successfully keep crickets. The particular species they cared for required rain before they would lay eggs, so a water spray bottle was kept handy. Fortunately, Garrett’s wonderful and expanding “insect zoo” was in a large spare building apart from the house, so there was plenty of room to expand; and far enough away for Garrett’s mother to avoid having to come near “the horrible things”.

Over the next couple of years, with the help of the professor, different species of insects were added to the collection. Garrett and the professor spent hours working with the little creatures. The collection was going to become famous! It all finished, however, a couple of years ago. Now that he’s older, Garrett is taking the professor to court.