This article originally appeared in Growing Today magazine in 2001.
Hot days aren’t unusual in my part of New Zealand. Every summer there are times when it’s so hot that the best I can do is slump into the chair under the big old birch tree and drink iced water while reading a book. I know from experience that if it’s hot round the house, it’ll be even hotter out on the back paddock, and blistering among the olives. Work is futile, destined only to cause sunburn, dehydration and frustration. Before I learned this lesson, I would sometimes set out after lunch to minister to my little truffle trees, only to turn back half way, completely flattened by the heat. It seemed as though the paddock between the house and the truffière concentrated the sun, intensified its power, bleaching the grass and making lizards happy. It was the hottest place on the farm, beyond a shadow of a doubt. An idea formed. Would this be a good place for a small vineyard?
This article was first published in Growing Today in 2004. It was written in February and March of that year, and started me on the road that led to Hot Topic. For more up to date information on climate change and impacts in New Zealand, please check the Hot Topic book and blog.
Since we bought our little piece of North Canterbury seven years ago, we’ve experienced an El Niño drought, a La Niña drought, an in-between drought, a once in 100 year flood, a once in 50 year frost and enough wind to make any tree grow with a lean. I’m looking forward to finding out what an average year’s like. Is our climate changing? I don’t know, I haven’t been here long enough to say, but the weather has certainly kept me interested.
This year we’ve had a blistering Christmas and New Year with near record heat, then a cold and wet February, bringing catastrophic floods to the south of the North Island. April brought snow to low levels, at least a month or two early. The National Institute of Weather and Atmosphere (NIWA) reports that 2003 was notable for the number of extreme weather events, and overall it was warmer than the long term average. Some interpret this as a sign that climate change is happening, others insist that it’s all part of the natural variation in our weather. In fact, it’s probably both at the same time.