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…

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