Beach, bush and brews, Gavin McLean

A Guide to the New Zealand Seashore
Dave Gunson,
VikingPacific, $19.95

If you can’t be bothered carrying all your seabird, rock pool fish and native plants books down to the beach with you, this book will be a fair substitute. Dave Gunson takes a holistic view of the bit where land meets sea, explaining everything from corals and jellyfish through to seagulls, shags and penguins in just 152 pages. More than 300 paintings, a quarter of them in colour, give a good idea of what you can expect to see on the average New Zealand beach. Despite the many Latin names that pepper the text, the book is simple and straightforward, and the index and chapter divisions will enable you to identify most animals as you walk along.

The book’s design is slightly dated, reflecting the fact that it first hit the shops about a decade ago. Revisions seem to have been conducted in a half-hearted manner. Thus on page 15, ‘Whaleline’ gives an updated phone number while referring to long-defunct government agencies such as the Wildlife Service of the Department of Internal Affairs and the Marine Division of the Ministry of Transport. The penguins probably won’t notice, though.



Gardening With Containers: Exciting Ideas for the New Zealand Gardener
Jill Sturgin,
Viking Pacific, $34.95

The renewed popularity of herb growing and the growth of urban in-fill housing developments have widened interest in gardening with containers. Jill Sturgin takes the reader through a series of short, simply written chapters, explaining the virtues of this gardening form and suggesting that container gardening can mean more than just corralling mint in a plastic bucket. There is basic, sensible advice on plant/ container ratios, fertiliser, watering, cold/ hot weather gardening and the merits and drawbacks of container materials. Not all plants appreciate this tight confinement – as I discovered recently when I decided to adorn a new deck with some expensive shrubs – so this book should repay its purchase price quickly enough. A smattering of colour photographs shows what you can do to enliven even the most austere front entrance or make the most of the pokiest of back yards. An especially useful chapter provides inspiration on hanging gardens, while another deals with the restrictions imposed by cold weather climates.



Favourite Native Plants for the New Zealand Home Garden
Julian Matthews,
Viking Pacific, $19.95

If you think that going native in the garden means going green, this book may make you think again. Favourite Native Plants shows how varied our native flora can be. In sixty-four pages, Julian Matthews crams in basic information about plant forms and sizes, soil/ shelter requirements, hardiness and propagation. The book’s small size and the need for compression scarcely do justice to the many crisp colour photos, which will whet most people’s appetites and have them heading off to their bulkier reference books.



Homespun Spirits
Jim Hay,
HarperCollins, $14.95

Jim Hay may be on to a good thing here. In this large format, sixty-four-page paperback he presents a step-by-step method for ‘superbrewing’ spirits and liqueurs for a fraction of the cost of buying them from a liquor store. This involves freezing brew in plastic drink bottles, spinning them on the end of a simply adapted pistol drill to separate the alcoholic bit from the rest, then ‘superbrewing’ the rocketfuel to drastically reduce the fermentation time.

Photographs and clear line drawings take you through what seems a simple, albeit revolutionary method that appears to be no more challenging than home wine-making. Several recipes are included for brandy, grain spirits and fruity, high-alcohol liqueurs. One chapter tells how to raise the alcohol strength even higher. You may not be able to spin Chivas out by the bucketload, but Hay alleges that you’ll be able to produce some thoroughly drinkable gins, vodkas, brandies and whiskies for just a few dollars a litre.

As I don’t have a power drill, I couldn’t review this book as thoroughly as I might have liked in the fortnight available, but the diagrams and text look convincing enough for me to start scanning the Placemakers mailers for a Black & Decker special ….


Gavin McLean is an historian with the Historic Places Trust.


Tagged with: ,
Posted in Natural History, Non-fiction, Review
Search the archive
Search by category