After many years supporting The Kauri Museum at Matakohe, the odd term tussie mussie has a firm place in my vocab.

Despite having zero skill as a florist, I thought I knew a small posy of pretty flowers constituted a tussie mussie – or a tussy mussy or tusee musee. But it's not quite that simple.

At The Kauri Museum's annual Settlers Day, a team of talented florists worked hard out for hours making tussie mussies by the dozen from baskets of flowers in a riot of colours which might clash as clothing but dazzled when assembled in these tiny bouquets.

They began life in pre Victorian times when they were called nosegays – combining "nose" and "gay" meaning ornament. Back then everyone stank because they didn't wash. These mini bouquets quelled the smell.


Queen Victoria took them to another level by folding the stems of stock, a scented flower, to capture the perfume.

Given royalty has the means to enjoy fine things, pretty soon nosegays were contained in silver vases – and these tiny, now antique, vases are also known as tussie mussies. Back then "tus" meant a flower cluster.

When we'd arrived at the museum, we met a friend dressed Victorian style riding side saddle on her horse and another young woman zipping around in a gig pulled by a mini pony.

As we meandered, we met other volunteers dressed in grand outfits of yesteryear. One told us she'd been assessed as looking very "upstairs". Surely not too many settlers, with the challenges they faced and a sorry lack of servants, managed to pull off that look.

Volunteers made prints, shod a horse, played music and guided and entertained the many ambling visitors. The feeling of warmth and sense of pride and camaraderie were something special.

That day I decided the differences between the interests of males and females can't solely be due to nurture not nature. While women composed and carried tussie mussies, a bevy of blokes gathered around a remarkable engine which hummed – or even purred.

"Pity no one's made a motor mower that sounds like that," I said to the farmer who assured me that this ancient motor's low volume was due to its considerable size.

The farmer and I were at The Kauri Museum to help promote Otamatea HarbourCare whose mission it is to plant vast riparian areas in order to limit farm run off and improve water quality in the Kaipara Harbour.

The charity is led by Mark Vincent who you'll see this Sunday on Country Calendar at Bryce and Aneta Lupton's farm. Early this winter a crew of us showed up there to plant a few thousand young native trees in a valley that feeds the Kaipara Harbour.

You might even see the farmer and me - he'll be the one of the end of a spade.

The crew filmed us as we worked, both from the ground and via a drone which was the cause of much excited curiosity.

The vibe on that day was special too. Despite being volunteers who'd not worked together before, we operated as smoothly as the well-oiled machine at The Kauri Museum.