EcoWinery: Yealands in Marlborough Wine District

IMG_9397One of the other themes of my New Zealand Adventure 2019 is eccentricity. I have been loving meeting or learning about wonderfully eccentric Kiwis. In case you think being eccentric is a bad thing, I mean it as a compliment. Especially because most innovation and out of the box thinking comes from eccentric people who are themselves without a care for what others think (or at least not enough to let them stop them). In some places, like Oamaru, where there are more eccentrics per capita (unverified theory of mine), it seems that people taking the path less travelled congregate. (Hmm, if everyone is taking their own path, how did they all end up in Oamaru?)

I’ve often thought that Kiwi culture is more likely to allow for an autodidact to gain expertise and do something original than say, American culture. One such person is Peter Yealands who figured out that the area around Seddon (in the Marlborough wine district) could successfully grow grapes. He started by buying up sections and planting  grapes that ultimately this led to this winery.

Yealands Family Wines is now largely owned by the local utility district (long story of financial troubles), but Peter’s eccentricity is still evident as the winery strives to be carbon neutral. They have an entire roof of solar panels, turn their trimmed vines into clean energy, host chickens to control grass grubs, and breed a particularly small breed of sheep to mow their grass cover crop.

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Merino sheep mow the cover crops until the vines begin to leaf out. Then the sheep are removed because they eat the leaves and early fruit. Yealands shorter sheep allow the sheep to mow year round, saving fuel for mowers. This idea hasn’t caught on yet.

I learned from the Davisons that the cover crops on the all the vineyards in the district are not because of some enlightened soil management but because it invariably rains just before harvest and the machinery used for harvest cannot get into the fields without the grass everywhere between vines and fence lines.

You can tour this winery and enjoy a free tasting. There is also a self-drive tour you can make in your vehicle called the “White Road Tour.” Open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Yealands Estate Wines are located at 534 Seaview Road, Seddon, Malborough.



Monarch Butterflies at Risk

One of the themes of this New Zealand adventure is species at risk. It as though all of the “sky is falling” warnings of those enviro “Henny Pennys” are finally coming home to roost. As I travel I am encountering fewer birds that before, and therefore fewer penguins. I was hoping to see a Kea on my southern sojourn, but alas, friends say that their range has contracted to Arthurs Pass.

Monarch butterfly populations are crashing in North America, and it seems they are in the southern hemisphere as well. We can do more than wring our hands or just wish for a different outcome. We can plant the species of native plants we know provide food and shelter for Monarch butterflies and other pollinator insects.

Swan plants at Paripuma in Blenheim, NZ

Whilst I was in Blenheim I learned about the swan plant, the preferred plant of the Monarch butterfly in New Zealand. Similar to the milkweed in North America, it has a milky substance in its stem and flossy flowering pods. The plant is the preferred place to leave its eggs or form a chrysalis.

Many plants attractive to pollinators also appeal to humans.

My experience with planting milkweed seeds in my home garden has been one of frustration. They never seem to germinate. This year I was able to transplant some dormant milkweed from a native plant garden about to undergo renovation. So far they are slow growing but responding. None of mine look as magnificent as Rosa Davison’s swan plants. Also, if you want to do the Monarchs a favor–stop or greatly reduce using any chemicals including fertilizer in your garden.


In California you can visit a special grove in Pacific Grove where the Monarch’s overwinter. Their numbers have been shrinking. Similarly in New Zealand, Butterfly Bay in Northland’s Whangaroa Harbour is an overwintering site. They have also seen a dramatic decline in butterfly numbers.

You can learn more about planting a pollinator garden for butterflies, or donating to promote butterfly habitats:

North America—Xerces Society

New Zealand–Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust

Where’d You Go, Bernadette


I saw the trailer a few months ago and made a mental note to see the film. Cate Blanchett is completely believable as a genius architect who has become a social menace. I was rooting for her the whole way. All of the actors were excellent. Although you have to wonder, when Billy Crudup plays another self-absorbed man, if in fact he’s playing himself.

I had not read the book, by the same name. book

My mom and I like to go to the movies together. We generally like the same kind of films: No violence! This takes out 80 percent or more of the options. We prefer lively plots involving well-developed characters. Good acting is a plus. Even with such liberal requirements we can go months without a movie worthy of our entertainment dollars. We thoroughly enjoyed this film.

I also loved the penguins! The film begins with Bernadette in a kayak in Antarctica, so I don’t need to worry about creating a spoiler. I enjoyed the details about the science focused cruises they book, the reality of seasickness on Drake’s Passage, and the new design for the South Pole research center (shown during the credits).

Screen Shot 2019-08-24 at 8.21.53 PMI got to thinking about my own goal to visit Antarctica with my grandson when he is old enough (must be over 8 for most cruises). How do we visit responsibly? The climate crisis is hitting some parts of the world more than others. And we watched this movie while the news of the Amazon rainforest fires broke. I appreciate how Afar travel magazine tackles these hard issues. Should we travel at all, and especially climate-impacted places, if our travel might hasten the crisis (excerpt of 8-23-2019 article by Michelle Baran above)?

First, you might choose to go because the areas where Amazon eco-tourism is available is not threatened by fire; however, as a Californian with experience dealing with megafire smoke, I have to warn anyone with lung issues that the smoke can be a serious health threat. The photo of Sao Paolo in darkness at 2 p.m. must be taken seriously by anyone with asthma. Smoke also creates a really depressing environment for a vacation.

Second, there is a case that Afar makes to go ahead and visit the more sustainable ecotourism providers to strengthen the case to local governments that the rainforest is worth more as a tourist and environmental resource than it is for its short-lived timber or cattle production. Other ethical suggestions include: 1) Look for carbon neutral travel providers; 2) Eat only locally produced grassfed beef; 3) Do not use tropical hardwoods in building and furniture. My initial reaction is this is insufficient.

At the same time, I am not traveling just to increase my status as a someone who goes to the hard to reach places, and I am willing to share why these places need to be managed differently on this blog and other places. If I am willing to grapple with the accompanying socio-economic issues, and educate my network of family and friends, then maybe I can justify the impact.

I will write more on ethical travel…