Best Laid Plans

You might know already but just in case you have forgotten I am going to reiterate.

We are what might be classed as “elderly”. That Best Beloved will be 71 and I will turn 69 this year.

Our wee plot of land is steep apart from our garden which is on the flat but with steps and slopes to negotiate to get to the garden beds.

We are surrounded by cabbage trees and flax both New Zealand natives and beautiful. They were planted by the original owners of this slice of heaven without considering management of the land. But as I said we are fast approaching elderly. The flax has to be cut back with a special Niwashi tool before we (Best Beloved) mows the grass and the cabbage tree dead leaves have to be collected because they fall all over the areas that have be mowed.

We are working towards minimizing the extra labour required to maintain the areas around the vegetable garden and house for our safety and that of the mower itself. We do have a covenanted bush area as well as the house section and a paddock.

Yesterday we carried on removing the cabbage trees and have done quite well – BUT we decided, when we were hot and sweaty at about 2pm, to go down to the wee village of Kaiaua and buy fish and chips for our late lunch to eat at the beach.

When we got home we went to check on the wee goats next door.

and that is where Best Laid Plans comes in.

Next door have 3 goats which have wings no matter what is done. Because of their propensity to fly over the fences they are each chained to a wee log which they drag with them always to stop the flight experience.

BUT

One goat had broken her chain and it (the chain) was entwined with the chains of the other two goats. So we had two goats pulling 3 blocks with the chains all wrapped around each other. They must have been playing jump rope (chain) in turn to become so entangled.

Best Beloved, myself, and our grandson took some long long minutes trying to disengage the goats from each other without harming them or us. I cuddled one goat whilst holding it also by the collar, Best Beloved held the other goat, and grandson untangled the chains and the blocks.

You might ask – why didn’t we just undo the chain at the collars. We asked that too. But grandson assured us that these goats would begin to fly the minute they were unattached so we persisted with the slow process of untangling 3 chains and 3 blocks.

These 3 goats are for the chop very soon because flying goats are of no use to a wee lifestyle block owner and they do make great roasts if dealt with young enough and good curries if a bit older.

So if you are a goat and reading this take heed don’t start to fly or you will fly to the oven.

And we have to continue our garden cleanup.

Just so you know – the cabbage trees are all in the gully where some will re-sprout and the seeds have been strewn as well. We are planning on planting flax in the gully area as well but lots of it will be removed by a local farmer who will be planting it along his stream banks as part of his management of his land. We are making our land safer and easier for us but we are still going to have lots of flax and cabbage trees for the the birds and to extend the bush.

The next cabbage tree will be relocated into the covenanted bush area as will some of the flax.

We are making progress here at Fuddy Farm

Best Beloved the farmer

Best Beloved; the IT nerd, wearing his best farmers hat. He had just finished organising the electric fencing for the steers now in our paddock. Who would have thought that a knitter and and an IT nerd would ever have steers in their paddocks. Thank goodness we have daughter and family next door so the steers can move between their paddocks and ours as our land area is rather small really. Far too small for 4 steers. It feels so good.

our garden wind break progress

The garden fencing is proceeding well. The top side is the chicken run and we do have temporary gates. The gate had been a Taranaki gate – but now it is an expandable trellis.

We are already seeing great results with our vegetables growing better in our raised beds inside the windbreak fence. It is going to be terrific when it is completed and yes I can wait.

You can see how small the various fruit trees are in the foreground. We have decided to buy bigger trees from now on – just because we are of advanced age and want to try all the fruit on our various trees.

steers in our paddock

Don’t you think those steers look happy and healthy.

I do.

written and posted on March 6th 2015

Of Possums, Mice, Roosters and Rats – the Joys of a Lifestyle Block!

My Love and I and I have retired onto a tiny lifestyle block in Miranda.  We are broke but freehold, and very happy indeed.

We are slowly beginning to belong properly in the country community, growing our own food organically, running free-range chickens, fishing in the estuary and loving every minute of it.  Our daughter, her partner and our grandson live right next door, so we see a lot of them, and look after our grandson before and after school each day.  The only major drawback has been the difficulty of getting a broadband connection.

After six long months, we finally have reliable internet here in Herkinderkin’s Heaven in rural Miranda.  Vodafone said they could do it and sold us a 3G data connection.  Sadly, their coverage maps were incorrect, possibly because they were based on incorrectly labelled street numbers in Google Maps.  Basically, mobile television and radio coverage here is weak and intermittent. We could connect only ten percent of the time, and even then it was terribly slow.  Vodafone technicians investigated and finally conceded that they could not provide the service they thought they could.  I believe they have now updated their maps, and I know Google have updated theirs because Google contacted me about it.

Our daughter and her partner have installed a satellite connection in their house, which is sixty metres away from ours.  Their connection is linked to our WLAN router via an 802.11n link.  So we share the costs and benefits. Wonderful – we can again communicate to the wide world!  It”s not quick, but it is reliable.

During the week on Monday’s, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go up early in the morning to daughter’s to watch over grandson when they go to work. My laptop connects automatically to their WIFI when I arrive – it’s almost like working at Vodafone. But being there for an hour each morning gives me the chance to catch up on emails and rave on in Twitter (@herkinderkin).  Tuesday and Thursday nights grandson stays at our place, so I get to sleep in on Wednesday and Friday morning.

We are having a  great time – the good and the difficult – hey, we’re in the country and there are challenges. Getting to know the locals, too,  Garden is cranking up, and we enjoy eggs from our free-range chickens.  Next spring we’ll chuck a couple of beef calves into the paddock and see what happens.

I have become a mighty hunter – trapping and shooting possums (eleven so far) forty-three mice and two wild roosters that wanted to shag our free-ranging chickens.  Haven’t managed to bag a rabbit yet but it’s only a matter of time.

The possums have scored a few strawberries from us, and some tomatoes, but we are definitely winning the war.  We have temporary fences around the vegie garden, and plan permanent fences as we expand, with overhead netting so that we can remain on friendly terms with the teeming bird-life and not have to treat them as enemies. Man they are superb – tuis, wood pigeons, pukekos, fantails, welcome swallows, chaffinches, yellowhammers, goldfinches, kingfishers, sparrows, thrushes, rosellas, mynahs, harrier hawks, pheasants, cockatoos, herons, ducks, peafowl and turkeys.  The latter we will hunt from May to August to supplement our protein.

The local sparky has become a friend.  He welcomed us into the community by inviting us to his annual family Boxing Day spit-roast barbecue – bloody lovely!.  He sets a net in the mudflats at Kaiaua, and he and I take turns checking it.  We are getting plenty of flounder, and some kahawai and mullet as well.  The kahawai and mullet end up in my hot-smoker.

Retirement turns out to be rather busy.  We have a temporary fence around the garden to keep the chickens and rabbits out, and I am working on a permanent fence, 1.9 metres high, which will also provide shelter from the spring winds that blow from September through December. So far I have put in twelve fence posts, 2400 X 100 X 75 mm and 2400 mm apart. I drill post-holes 200mm wide and 500 mm deep in the hard clay, and ram the posts in place while my love keeps them vertical.  We have another twelve to put in place, then I must build and hang two gates for access, put in wooden rails top and bottom between the posts, and attach dense wind-break cloth.  Oh, and then I must line the garden shed and attach it to the water supply, so we can use it as a brew-house. We have planted 68 fruit trees so far, and plan a few more.  It’s hard work and great fun.  Best of all, I start each day when I feel like it, and knock off to go fishing or even have a nap if I get tired.  My love reckons I have more muscles now than at any time since I was thirty-five!

Here’s a picture of what I did to deal with a determined attack on our chickens from the local Norwegian rats.  Unlike the common brown and black rats, the bastards can burrow like rabbits.  They dug under the walls of the ark chicken coop to gain entry, and terrified the chickens so that they went off the lay.

Fort Fowl

Bugger – the ark idea has the advantage of being movable, so that over time the whole garden is worked over by the chickens in a controlled manner.  But who ever designed it didn’t have to contend with Norway rats!  So, plan B was executed.

Plan B is a 1.2 X 1.2 metre chicken house on legs, about 90 cm above ground, built of 18mm builder’s ply.  The three nesting boxes hanging on the North side (the sunny side here in the Southern hemisphere) have a hinged floor so that I can change the nesting material simply by dropping the old stuff into the wheelbarrow. The East wall opens out so that I can rake the droppings straight our into the barrow – mucking out takes less that a minute.  Best of all, it’s impregnable to the rats and because it’s off the ground, there’s nowhere for them to hide.

We call it Fort Fowl…

what a hot day we have had here in Miranda

and what a silly woman I am. I do not make jam yet today on the hottest day we have experienced here in Miranda – about 29c I had to make jam. That Best Beloved went plum picking on Thursday and bought home a 12 litre bucket of jam plums and another 1/2 bucket of lovely eating plums.

Now just so you know Best Beloved and I don’t really eat jam. Our spread of choice is honey and yes we intend to install a bee hive or 2 further down the track – so why on earth did he bring home plums for jam??

Because he could.

And I hate waste – so jam making on the hottest day yet.

And it doesn’t seem to be setting.

Recipe – 2.7 kilos of plums, 2 kilos of sugar, 1 heaped teaspoon of ginger, 1.25 cups of water.

I will keep you posted on the status of the jam and of course if we give it away or start to love jam and use it.

And what did that Best Beloved do on this very hot day – he used the weed eater on 3 of our slopes and then he started on posts for the trellis for our blackberry and our passionfruit vines.

Maybe these retirees are addled, just maybe.

This is our life!

Best Beloved and I have just spent 3 years living and working in the Netherlands. At the completion of Best Beloveds work there we rode our ordinary push bikes for 22 days from Haarlem in the Netherlands see oldfartexpats if a bit curious to Switzerland where our son lives.

While still in Europe we suffered brain fade and ever so crazily purchased a small lifestyle block in Miranda (viewed by our daughter) and sold our house in Auckland by auction.

Now we are retired and starting a new adventure – establishing a garden and orchard, plus chickens, a couple of beef cattle and/or sheep on a small steep block which includes a little piece of covenanted bush in Miranda.

It is a piece of paradise in NZ.

Are we crazy or what?!

Written on 20 January 2012