It was a HUGE couple of days for me and the bloke this weekend as we moved to our new house. It's always a wrench to leave your home, but like any translocation, the opportunities of a new environment can be a positive thing.
This month, I was heartened to read this story about kokako being returned to the Puketi Forest in Northland. I was chuffed because it is a huge success story for the hardworking volunteers who carry out the pest control in Puketi Forest, but also because we have a personal connection to this story - the bloke's family have a farm next to the bush of Puketi and we are very fond of this special place.
Kokako in Puketi faced one of the fastest declines seen in recent history of a native bird, plummeting from 120 birds in 1986 to just seven lonely males in 2003. Since 2003 the volunteers have been trapping pests in 5500ha of the 15,000ha forest (another great example of flax roots conservation). This month's translocation marks a turning in the tide for the wildlife in the forest, and something I am proud to support (we sponsor a stoat trap through the Puketi Forest trust - the wonders of online conservation and internet banking!).
To ensure that the translocated birds stay in the relative safety of the Puketi Forest, speakers have been hung throughout the forest that will play the haunting melody of the kokako (in the correct kokako dialect) to encourage the birds to stay. This is called "anchoring" - and has been used successfully for kokako around the country.
The concept of anchoring got me thinking this weekend as the bloke and I moved into our new house. What is it about your surrounding environment that makes you feel comfortable and safe there and what happens when you move out of that to a new environment?
We've lived in the bustling metropolis (pop. 2637 in 2006) of Woodend for the past few years. We have enjoyed our time in Woodend, particularly due to the local volunteer fire brigade, where the bloke has been an active member since we've lived there. Despite the pager regularly going off in the middle of the night and somehow the fire alarm having a knack for knowing when we are about to have dinner, the members and families of the local brigade have been one of our "anchors" to this place.
We've only moved 30km up the road - to Waipara ("the wine district, dah-ling") so we're still sort-of locals, and luckily the bloke can transfer to the brigade up here. But what other anchors are there? The day we arrived with a builder to do an inspection before we bought the place, the bloke pointed out a tiny grey warbler in the sparse little hedge in front of the house. Birds have always been messengers on both sides of our families - so it seemed a good sign.
For me, the lack of a garden (it's a translocated house with an enormous lawn and two spindly fruit trees) was a worry, but the bloke saw nothing but opportunity in that. He's already worked out where the veges, fruit trees and native garden are going, and of course he brought his "brew" (a plastic drum filled with a foul-smelling but nutrient-rich mixture of seaweed, paua guts and who knows what else - he won't tell me, it's a secret recipe apparently), so the new garden will be well fed. Though we have no trees (yet), the farm over the back has plenty of big ones that shelter our place and are full of birds including a bellbird I heard from our bedroom yesterday afternoon. We have transplanted self-sown fruit tree seedlings from our last house and some of our precious herbs and vegetable plants, so we're ready to go.
The chooks have settled in better than we could have hoped for - when I checked the egg box in their new chookhouse yesterday morning there were THREE tiny bantam eggs in there. I can't remember the last time all three of them laid. Thanks to Trademe for helping me find a new hen Hilton.
Nemo has slotted in as though he always lived here, sunbathing on the wooden deck, and is totally uninterested in walking outside the property - I haven't even had to close the front gates. There are always turf wars in any translocation and the local cats haven't yet figured out they are not welcome but I'm sure once Nemo stops sunbathing, he'll sort them out.
It's not quite the farm we'd one day like to live on (however, we are now proud holders of a rural delivery address!), but to have our own piece of earth to till, nurture and grow, to not have to hide the dog on landlord inspection days and to finally get that beehive going - feels pretty good indeed. Turns out the anchor I was searching for was here all along.
Have you moved house lately? How did you cope with being uprooted from your community? What is it that anchors you to a new home? Does anyone else out there HATE the stress of packing and moving as much as I do!? Do tell, I'd love to hear your moving stories (and also suggestions for what to do about the gajillion now-empty banana boxes residing on the back lawn).