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The gate is a prayer retreat center in Otaki Forks, New Zealand
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Slowly, slowly things happen around here

It’s now 9 weeks since the road was closed. We have seen the progress to get an emergency track in place with negotiations and then the work to be done. Our side of the access has a large slip that would have impeded access but some work has been done in it to make it safer but not quad accessible. i haven’t been past the slip to do pest control so need to do that now to move some of the traps and tunnels plus the leg traps for possum catching that i have recently used on the beginning of the dam track. I also had a modified timms trap that caught our first feral cat so it’s obvious that is one species that I need to consider is also in the area to remove.

It’s been unusually wet and cold over the past weeks and today is no different with the rain warnings in place. It has been hard for the bees to get to the nectar of the flowering trees around here so the quantity of honey will be noticably less for many, like myself. I am ever hopeful of course. Even with the planting of the garden… put in seeds and plants but everything is slow and possibly disease prone with the dam weather, I also had a chicken attack on the recently planted greens so if it’s not one thing it’s another.

How do we interpret : “it’s at your own risk ” that we travel over the potential slip area… what about visitors or potential guests. Where does that place us? Legally where does the responsibilty lay if we have you come to stay. We are needing to ask a few more questions.. either of the local council or a lawyer. Mind you carrying food/ bags and such isn’t the issue, it’s all back to what risk you will take as we see hunters still coming on quads and other means of transport..

A few questions linger in our minds about possible timing of the length of this closed road experience. It would be good to know in our world of planners, but it seems not likely that it will fall for our timetable. So the emergency track is almost done…. one problem is the point that it opens up above the lucitanicas with it being close to our open land at the top of the ridge and the attraction of heading straight down the ridge to the house. ( in the planning stage this option was being agreed to but practially it hasn’t happened with the DOC workers

Keep carrying on through the wet days and the fine

Plan and adjust what you may do, as the day decides

Don’t be amazed or discouraged

It’s not all about you

Keep trusting, looking forward

knowing you will get through

this time with Joy

trusting that God is here with you.

Waiting is a testing

We are frequently asked, ” When will the road open again?”, ” When is the council going to fix it?” as we wait for the hlllside to fall. Life goes on as normal really except we do a bit more walking to get to the car.( as I thought yesterday it’s no different from someone walking to the train to get to work). Hardship…. the isolation with only the ones who don’t take notice of signs likely to head into the Forks for a walk, kayak or cycle as we have noticed signs on the road or seen them passing by.

Patience, well learned in years gone by with the time between coming to live on the land and building the house and then 4 years ago with the months between the road closure and the slip falling and the reconstruction of the hillside… it sure comes as another test to make the most of the time.

The one thing I have found challenging is the weather, too wet and windy for bees to be out foraging much when the spring flowers are in great profusion like the kamahi, hinau and rewarewa so who knows how much polination of plants and nectar is happening with this spell…. a challenge to get out into the garden as well.

I have enjoyed the walks in the bush… there’s always something interesting like a fallen tree covered in small white fungi or flowers like the Oleria Rani that happens every 5 years so I see more trees than I had seen before or hearing the NZ Falcon/ karearea flying about. It’s good for my health I say as I plan to go to do pest control work on one of the tracks. A few DOC 200 traps have parts of duckling that have died from the latest batch to use as bait incase there is a stoat about.

Today I have the task of fixing a cracked firebrick in the Rayburn stove, great to have the backup underfloor heating until it’s repaired.

I am ready to send my application in to Kapiti Coast District Council for a Heritage fund grant. A good time to make a Management plan, make a budget for future spending as I have talley up the hours spent on the work on pest control over a year. It is good to keep the supplies of bait, lure and gas plus purchase new equipment and now things to help with monitoring the work that I have done. The applicaiton is for November and we get the grant applications processed by February to be spent by June.

Slowly life changes.

It’s been a month now since the road gates were locked and signs went up. No emergency access has been negotiated yet so we see the occasional walker, push bike, motor bike and quad heading inland. We have a chance to talk with some.

We bike or walk 1.5 km to the where the car is parked so need to allow enough time to do that bit when planning time away in Otaki or Wellington. Yesterday we left 1 pm and got back home at nightfall 8pm after a 1 1/2 hour visit with family. It was ok but took longer than a car ride as we used the train service. We need to be patient with each other and communicate where we are as officially we are the only ones here now that the DOC Ranger has left to stay elsewhere although he may be back to check things in a couple of weeks. We are surely in another period of waiting…. time to seek the Lord, pray, read the word, have a retreat at home with the occasional forray out in Otaki or elsewhere.

I took some photos today of the road… looks ok from the distance….. and the road edge that is subsiding with cracks in various places that can only be seen when close to them. I wonder if it will be heavy rain that will cause the fall to happen or whether something can activate the action? It is good that we have had the quad serviced, got good backpacks, are self generating power, don’t have any major maintanence issues to address.

We have been asked about leaving the house, etc but wher etoo and what to do with the beehives which will soon be in full nectar collecting with kamahi and other trees flowering, what about ducks and hens and of course the security of the place let alone keeping up with pest control activities that I do. This seems a but difficult as we would have to have a fully furnished house too as we aren’t really happy taking a vehicle over the area in question. So why not stay and give no place to fear or anxiety… live by faith that we will be looked after and stay safe.

time passes with little changes

It’s a month since the gates were locked across Otaki Gorge road so our life has been different since then. And so we wait, some of the cracks have enlarged and slumping has continued close to the springs paddock but overall just walking across is about the same. The concrete barriers have been ajar so we have brought our serviced quad bike back after 2 weeks.

The changes have bought a measure of quietness into our lives intersected by the occasional phone call and connection with Steve the DOC Ranger. We have taken time to be still, i have pottered in the garden getting reading for planting with some tyres filled with the contents of the bukashi buckets, soil from the hen run and some leaves we collected into bags from a friend’s house in Otaki a few months ago. So I’m stirring into action by taking out some of the finished plants, picking the seed heads of the russian kale before it bursts into flower, looking at the task of getting everything started for the months ahead by soaking seeds, buying some more plants ready to go like silverbeet, spinach, pokchoi and 2 zuchinni plants. It’s amazing to see potatoes sprouting and the odd bit of asparagras appear.

On walking it’s great to see the Oleria Rani flowering mostly on the part of the road from the corner entrance to the Pukeatua stream track to the cairn…5 trees here flowering every 5 years. There is lemonwood (tarata) and wineberry which I believe the bees are collecting nectar from plus the gorse as there’s plenty of yellow pollen on the legs of the bees.

It’s time to try making some weta motels… have yet to try the small hand held router…. but a hand saw cut the wood today so I’m heading forward. I will try to do some kind of creative project each day I think. There are tunnels to make up so there’s a never ending possiblity list for me.

It’s time to contemplate on the goodness of God, what He is like and to take time to listen and meditate on His word. Yes all these are aspects of prayer and then there’s thanking Him for the privileges we have at this time, a time of learning, reading and journalling. So one can fill the day in many ways plus throwing in some walking and pest control work.

Reading the biography of Rees Howells has been a reminder and challenge to live as ” dead ” with no will or self to dominate my life and reactions, to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to do God’s will. In other ways it’s to be obedient to promptings, to step out into what I feel God is wanting me to do, even if it’s a phone call to a friend who had been planning to visit this week, to tell her about the road so she said to me, ” This is a God call”. She will change her plans! A pity but at least it saved a difficult situation as I didn’t know she was planning to come till I phoned her.

Signs of change on the land and sea.

Walking at dusk last night highlighted the isolation we are in. No sign of traffic on the road which has had a day of rain. It was amazing to see in the fading light the flowers of Oleria Rani, Wineberry and Lemonwood trees were visible in the growing darkness as we walked from the carpark to the bridge…. amazing that it’s flowering time again. We had birds with their evening chorus around us with the piwakawaka flitting about. Quite a scene as we strolled together, sharing life.

A different time of year than lockdown, a different focus with thoughts of how to be filled with the Spirit of God and have fruitful lives. It’s been a locked in situation with still being able to walk across the road, as we wait to the fall. I do wonder sometimes how long.,… even thinking on Saturday about the scripture in Mark 11 where Jesus said, ” you can say to the mountain be cast into the sea”. By faith believing and it will happen. So that’s a word for us but we declared it would be into the river, soon, within 1-2 months not 3 years, leaving us a place to walk across and a road be formed again. .

the continuing unfolding of this present saga.

More signs are expected today to alert trampers about access to the Tararua Forest Park as plans are being made for an alternative entry which will probably include our place again using the dam track from Kathy’s Way. Steve the Ranger appeared on his scooter with Patch perched on the back to get a key for the gate to be opened to the track as he came in that way on Wednesday night.

More signs, less foot traffic wanted as we wait the day when that piece of hillside that has the cracks that are increasing in size, fall into the river. It’s a waiting game so as we transverse the area on foot I wonder when, many speculations around. The quad is getting serviced and we are making it safer with a roll bar and adding a small trailer with the help of the local serviceman.

Our days will change in character and activity for sure, especially as I won’t be going to Lower Hutt each week to see family as I did last term. It’s sure an exercise in surrender…being able to change into what seems like a new season. Surely God is in this so we embrace what time we will have for more prayer and waiting on HIm.

I imagine it will include more walking and carrying loads so I have tried to purchase for a few weeks in anticipation of a long journey of waiting and fixing. I will need to move the water tank in the Springs paddock from it’s prime position I imagine, collect up pest control bait stations and be prepared for changes in the springs paddock as engineers consider a solution to the road access across our land.

It feels like a roller coaster journey… nothing certain, daily arranging, changing plans and activities with some that remain the same like feeding the birds and going out doing pest control activities resetting traps and replacing bait, keeping to a schedule is good.

Safety is important as David found falling off his bike carrying a box at Blue Bluffs, grazing a hand, elbow and hip, nothing bad but a reminder to take care.

Road closure at Blue Bluffs

It has happened rather suddenly yet not really with the way the cracks have been appearing in the road especially obvious was the slumping of land opposite the gate to the springs paddock. It changes our life to one of walking at least 1 km, trolleying or wheelbarrowing supplies plus using a back pack again as we come and go. The signs say No Pedestrian Access from the locked gates. This mean no hunters, trampers and day walkers are welcome to walk past our house but as we have found many people don’t read signs.

The Kapiti Coast District Council staff have been working on the site removing concrete barriers with the decision they will assess the area in 2 weeks time. A geologist is involved and preliminary plans are being made to restore the road after the slip using land from the springs paddock area and probably trees being removed and the water tank I set up needing to be dismantled too.

It is a waiting time with preparations being made the best we can, with getting more bird food and other basics to last a few months, getting the quad serviced, having the car, 4×4 and trailer on the Otaki side. Having good walking boots, socks and backpacks out of storage and the loan of a light wheelbarrow.

The biggest thing is having our attitudes and reactions to change exposed. We are challenged daily by something. Learning to give thanks in everything and praise God in the midst of this time will be important. We are grateful for KCDC Staff support, neighbours allowing us to have vehicles at their place, the opportunity to take the quad in and out for servicing through a gap in the concrete barriers for 2 weeks, the weather warming up as spring is here.

This is a big change for the DOC Ranger as he has been asked to leave so that means finding accommodation locally and occasional visits to check on the house etc. A suddenly that has been hard for him and leaves us as they only ones at the entrance to the Taruaua Forest Park with no access at present for the public unless the emergency track is activated again.

Changes and opportunities

the amazing environment here is the environment for having birds and pests. We are having a new activity of bird monitoring with 3 monthly walks on the Arcus Dam track listening for 5 minutes every 200 metres. It is amazing to learn new bird sounds that have been present here for years without me knowing what they were. So the tomtit call has become the one I hear even around the house. It’s an exciting thing to hear them in the numbers that we found plus the possibility of a rifleman being at the second creek ( heard but not seen).

Great to have the young people here doing the Papa Taiao pest control course for 2 days. Inspired to keep going with the encouragement about what we are doing here. I have been focusing on how to monitor the wetas that may be here. I have put out some bamboo lengths on the track and on tracks around the house. In an attempt to make a different type I have taken some macracarpa firewood bits into a weta hotel by buying a tool to help with cleaning out the centre……a new skill to learn.

Another change is the slipping nature of the river side of the road. Workers are now putting together a support about 1 km from the house across the Pukeatua stream bridge leaving the digger and other equipment in the area across the road from the house entrance. Yesterday a line of cones appeared close to the Springs Paddock river side as the road has sunk over the past weeks where vehicles turn…. is this the future place of a land slip. It is possible? Do we need to have a vehicle prepared on the other side of the Blue Bluffs slip face?

Spring days for 2020

Back in Level 2 has meant few changes for us, with more people distancing outside the grocery stores and in public settings/meetings, a few people wearing masks but mostly it’s life a usual.

We have had a great spell of warm spring weather now we have the rain of spring, most welcome after such a dry period. Pity it’s a bit cooler with now sunshine to heat the house. The underfloor and rayburn are welcomed at this time. We had a trip with the trailer one afternoon to collect dead gorge from the side of the road… the hottest burning wood available I believe… it was mostly easily broken up after just pulling it out of the ground only needing the chainsaw for the thicker stems. There’s more to collect if we so wish. It has been sprayed by road side spraying contractors.

We are glad for spring flowers again… in the garden -daffodils, on the tree tops- clematis looking like butterflies waving in the wind, the corybas orchids with their spider like flowers seen again on the road reserve, tiny white flower pieces from some native tree that puts a confetti like cover on the tracks, So life is stirring into action again… birds getting ready for laying as I guess that’s why there are more flocks of tui about.

Walkers still enjoy the track to the dam….some commenting that it’s a spiritual, walk others that it’s refreshing, of course it’s wet underfoot as it’s in the shade at this time of year.

Water tank filling from a spring.

It’a been a journey that started during lockdown with thoughts about spring water at the Springs Paddock to the north of the house. I had tried to get spring water into a tank after the pad was made during the time of the slip in 2016 but it dried up… the lower spring.

David read me some verses from the story of Caleb in the book of Joshua and how is daughter asked for land, with upper and lower springs. That caught my attention so I then went looking to see if there was water behind the first level of the slip site where there were ditches behind each level. Sure enough and when I tapped it I found it flowed at 1 litre a minute.

So the journey of getting advice, pipes, fittings and the tank into the area which is filling as I write. Yesterday 24 July 2020 we joined it all together. I have had help at each stage with pulling the tank into position and making the site for it to rest. Another friend pulled the pipe from the area the water is to flow then yesterday David and Steve ( DOC) helped me put the intake into place supported by a piece of spouting. I joined the intake made of conduit with holes in it to that pipe and way it flowed. Hopefully the tank will be still filling and I have tried to put an overflow system away from the tank so it’s not undermined. It’s all amazing and as Steve said another thing to maintain . The Springs paddock now has access to clean and flowing water at the bottom level at the pad, so is getting ready for someone to come and stay. Not sure what it but it’s getting more prepared for a housebus, hut, caravan or something! Mind you it can be a windy spot but from there we could see the snow on the tops of the mountain yesterday.