Tuesday 9 November 2010

Gooseberry fool

There's panic in the Bay of Plenty today as a potentially virulent virus has been found there that can wipe out kiwifruit plantations. It's caused great problems overseas, and the rush is on to identify the strain found here, with many fingers crossed that it's not the nastiest one.

It's caused by a bacterium, and I don't know what the treatment would involve, but I remember all too well what happened when the Painted Apple Moth was discovered here: we were sprayed several times by crop-dusters roaring over our suburb, low, noisy and swamping us in an unpleasant mist that many people claimed gave them respiratory problems. It certainly did the trick: no more PAMs - and no more butterflies of any other sort either. We used to have so many monarch butterflies in the garden that I got bored with them, but not after the spraying. Even eight years later, they're still a rare sight here.

Tedious though the MAF checks at the airport are, when all you want after a long flight is to burst through the double doors and get home again, it's impossible to argue with their necessity. I do dispute the accuracy of the sniffer beagles however, cute though they are: one has picked on me entirely wrongly, convinced there was forbidden material in my backpack when there was nothing of the sort; and the luggage x-rays too missed the stowaway lizard from the Cook Islands that made it all the way back to my bedroom at home.

That was a bit of a drama, freezing it to death and then posting it to the MAF people in the dramatically OTT kit they couriered me, with disposable gloves, disinfectant-infused towelling and a big screw-top jar - all for a little gecko that could never have survived a winter here.

The 'kiwis' in this photo, by the way, are an entirely new (to me) cold-weather variety that was for sale in the market at Bellingham in Washington state. They look nothing like ours, but taste exactly the same. Perhaps I've found the solution...

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