Hence the bounteous harvest time; When Poututerangi brings forth the first fruits of the year.
- Excerpt from waiata / lullaby 'He Popo' from Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki in Turanga - Gisborne
(from Apirana Ngata's Nga Moteatea - The Songs Part III)
Ngahuru begins when certain tohu (signs) appear in the night sky, indicating that important crops such as kūmara are ready to be harvested. In the Maramataka - Māori lunar calendar, Poutū-te-rangi (February - March) is named after the constellation which becomes visible at this time (called Altair in the northern hemisphere).
This season also includes the Autumn Equinox (March 21st), when the length of the day and night are equal. It marks the start of shorter days and longer nights as we move into winter. Many cultures all over the world hold harvest celebrations at this time and have created rituals to bring people together and give thanks for the gifts of the season.
For an excellent overview of the importance of seasonal changes for Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa, as well as Celtic and ancient European cultures, we highly recommend Juliet Batten's two books - Celebrating the Southern Seasons - Rituals for Aotearoa and Sun, Moon and Stars - Seasonal celebrations for children and families, tamariki and whānau.
What are you harvesting from your māra this season? Autumn can be a busy and bountiful time for your school, kura, or community garden, with crops such as kūmara, corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, and beans all ready to pick. If you have an orchard, it's time to make the most of autumn fruit such as apples and pears.
Celebrate your harvest by cooking seasonal meals and sharing extra kai with your community.
Ngahuru is an important season for harvesting kūmara and other crops, but our native plants and cultivated māra also provide kai throughout the year. This Māori Harvesting Seasons online resource from Te Ara - Encyclopedia of NZ allows you to select Whenua, Moana, Rangi and Ngā Awa, to find out which plants and animals can be harvested throughout the seasons.
Along with vegetable and flower seeds in your garden, Ngahuru is the perfect time to collect seeds from many of our native plants.
To keep it really simple, all you need are some paper bags or envelopes, which you can label with the date and plant name. How do you know if the seeds are ready to be collected? This depends on the plant, but generally they will be dried out or splitting open and you may notice seeds falling on the ground or berries being eaten by birds - these are all good signs that plants want to spread their seeds.
Keep your seeds in a cool, dry place and start researching the next stage of the process. Ākonga could learn how to propagate native seeds or find out when to sow vegetable seeds, which will vary based on where you are in Aotearoa.
Making Seed Balls is such a fun activity and you only need 3 simple ingredients (and you already have seeds!). Use locally sourced native seeds if you're trying to restore a steep bank, or an area covered in gorse. Wildflower, herb and vegetable seeds can also be used, but make sure you only use these within your own property. Just wait for the seed balls to dry out for a few days and then you can start throwing. Some people even use tennis rackets to hit the balls long distances!
Get out in your local environment and collect a range of natural items that can be used to create art. This can be as simple as making patterns or other ephemeral art that will be blown away by the wind. You could set up an autumn nature display in your classroom and ask ākonga to bring items from their garden or local park.
Create Leaf Art has links to a range of ideas to get ākonga started and spark their creativity.
Older students could take photos or draw sketches to create a collage of local autumn plants. Look for tohu (seasonal signs in nature) that appear during ngahuru in your local area, such as the beautiful white flowers on the houhere tree, the black seed pods of harakeke, or the bright red fruit on tōtara.