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semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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sheep

New life – that Spring feeling

In the last week the weather has turned the corner and it is feeling considerably warmer up here.  Indeed, some days it’s been so hot that I have found myself abandoning my jumper in favour of a short-sleeved tee shirt.

We are, of course, on the cusp of spring  and this is code for ‘unreliable weather’, so I know there will be some days when the barometer plummets and winter woollies will be required day wear, there will be frost on the ground to greet us on waking in the morning, and the need for a fire in the evening will be non-negotiable.

But this is a small price to pay for the arrival of spring the man and I think. Yes, we now have lambs in the paddocks, with more to be born. Having said this, we did have a stillborn lamb. Perfectly formed, it arrived on a very stormy night a couple of weeks ago and was still covered in its membrane when we found it dead the next morning. Nature.

The garden is giving us lots of pleasure. It is sprouting flowers that we never knew we had: freesias, daffodils and other bulbs in hiding since we came in January are pushing through the ground.

The fruit trees have been whipped into order and I’ve started my spraying programme – codling moths: be gone!  In the vegetable garden, the garlic shoots are now visible* and the rest of the garden is being slowly prepared for further plants when my go-to book tells me it is time.

Today I planted the heirloom tomato seeds I got from the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust. Once they have grown into seedlings, I will transfer them into the garden, meanwhile they are sitting in pots on a sunny window sill in my study.

I also have put in the first of the potatoes in the garden, after leaving them in sunlight for the required 7-10 days to sprout. My go-to book says that potatoes can be successfully grown in tyres, and strangely enough I found a couple behind the shed today, so I think I will give that a go too. Or maybe, I should make delightful tyre swan planters out of them? The perfect Christmas gift for a friend or two perhaps?

We are also thinking about putting a couple of hives in. One of our neighbours has bees so we went to see them. It turns out our neighbours are actually hosts, rather than the owners of the hives. For the use of their land, they get paid in honey – more than enough for their needs apparently. This may work perfectly for us, so we will do some investigation.

Meanwhile, the man and I are spending a lot of our days working hard on a new product. Yes, we think it may be the answer to getting the income part of the equation sorted. The man is busy perfecting prototypes and streamlining the process while I am spending a good swag of time sourcing materials at the best possible price from suppliers.  It is very exciting, but the best part is that we are really proud of the product as it is beautifully made and fits in exactly with our buy local philosophy. Watch this space!

Yes, life up north continues to be enjoyable and we remain optimistic!

* The garlic shoots look remarkably like kikuyu grass – a trap for the unwary!

New Life – learning curves

 

Being newbies to this life in country lark, there is so much information to be absorbed.

Even a task like pruning our fruit trees is a totally new experience, and one that this time around fell to me.

I  knew  that if we were to have the best yield possible, I needed to  prune and prune right, so this simple task to many, but not to me, required:

a. a trip to the nursery to talk to our kind garden guru about how it is done,

b. a perusal of all our gardening books and magazines to clarify the above information, hopefully with foolproof diagrams for me to follow,

c. and just to be doubly sure, a quick look at you tube videos to see it actually being done. In real time preferably.

Some of the advice turned out to be confusing including this gem: a bird should be able to fly through the middle of the tree.  Easy as, right? Except it left me wondering whether the bird referred to was an anorexic wax eye or a kereru with an obesity problem?

And, of course, some advice was just plain contradictory.  Sigh.

Regardless, yesterday I took the pruning saw in hand and began on one of  the apple trees.  I started off pruning fairly conservatively. Yes, the trees probably hadn’t seen a pruning saw in the last decade, maybe longer,  but I still felt it prudent to exercise a degree of caution.

However, there is something about cutting off branches that seemed to bring out  confident me.  Admittedly, probably a decidedly unhealthy level  of confidence, but confidence nonetheless.

I loped off branches like there was no tomorrow, following each cut up with a slap of paint. At regular intervals I assessed my handiwork, and worked out my next move.

An hour or so later, I finally stood back and looked at the tree in a smug and satisfied way.  It may not be perfectly pruned, but it was acceptable.

I put my saw away for the day.  I deserved a drink!

Story Two

Our tame  young farm manager popped by to say hi and check on his flock.

We stood chatting to him for a few minutes as we watched a plane land on the farm airfield across from us.

We asked him who was the owner of the farm and its airfield. He replied the owner’s name was Biggles. First name apparently.

The man and I smirked. A polite smirk, mind you! The farm manager looked utterly confused.

We explained that Biggles was a World War One pilot in a kids’ book from our childhood,

We all laughed.

Story three.

A week or so after the Biggles incident, the first of our lambs were born. Twins and a singleton.

About two days after this, the man noticed a newborn lamb abandoned in the paddock; its mother standing way off.

The lamb appeared to be breathing shallowly.

We called our tame farm manager. He told us to stay away from the lamb and he would swing  by in half an hour.

We kept away as instructed, but kept a close eye on the scene – our townie colours truly showing!

When Kayel turned up as promised, our near-dead newborn lamb was standing up  looking decidedly healthy.

The lamb was neither newborn  or about to meet his maker. Our lamb was in fact the singleton born a few days previously and his near-death experience was simply a nap.

Our young farm manager just grinned at us in a very amused farmer-y sort of way.

And we grinned back too. Sheepishly.

Learning curves – a two way street.

 

 

 

 

New Life – shaping up

There is a saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I can certainly relate to this!

When we arrived on this property the paddocks were covered in carrot weed and the gardens around the house needed some work.

Six months in and we have made some great headway – often with the help of people who know far more than we do! Yes, Kayel, our tame farm manager, did an awesome job with his hay making and his sheep to bring the paddocks back to something respectable. He actually increased the number of sheep on the property while we were away by another two to nine*. This has made a huge difference to getting the paddocks under control.

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We still have a couple of patches that need work – one where the old piggery was requires some fencing repairs before we let the sheep lose to eat it back into shape – we have learned the hard way that sheep leave Houdini in the shadows when it comes to escaping!

The second bit that needs some final work is the front paddock which was used to grow bulbs by a former owner. This requires some irrigation and a gravel base to be removed before some re-grassing can take place.

There is also a dam in this same paddock which needs a bit of TLC in the way of some bamboo removed  (who in their right mind ever plants bamboo?), and the dam cleaned out. When we arrived there was a bent and broken windmill beside this waterway. We had it taken away, but the man and I fancy getting a new one to pump the water up to one of the tanks we have.  Eventually. These things cost money and although nice to have, it is not a priority at the moment.

Meanwhile we are continuing to put the  gardens in. Today I planted parsley, thyme, mint, marjoram, chives and sage beside the rosemary I put in last week. I have located this in a sunny spot a few steps away from the kitchen. Nothing like convenience!

I also have started dealing to the overgrown garden where the son found the potatoes growing. This is a mass of horrible weeds so it will take me a while to whip this into shape.

The marmalade making is continuing at pace. This week’s batch contained more lemons than the last lot and I made it less chunky by cutting the pieces a lot smaller. It set a treat – maybe it was the smallness of the pieces or perhaps it was the obligatory whiskey I threw in? Regardless, I have the mystique of marmalade making totally sorted now!

I also cleaned my stove.

No, don’t roll your eyes!

I have always been interested in using other ways to clean than the normal commercial products. I have found oven cleaners and their caustic chemicals get into the back of my throat and are unpleasant, so I decided to give a baking soda and vinegar recipe a shot.

Mr Google provided several such recipes – many of which used hydrogen peroxide too.  I decided I wanted to avoid the hydrogen peroxide so found a recipe that used only a paste of baking soda and water, a bit of elbow grease and a final clean with vinegar. It worked a treat. Goodbye store bought products – I will use baking soda and vinegar from now on.

Lastly I have had my catch up with my tame gardening guru over pruning and spraying. She has given me some sound advice which I will put into practice next week – hopefully I will end up with some amazingly shapely trees which are full of fruit!

Country life – never dull!

*There were actually 11 at their peak, but 2 ended up in the freezer.  We now have 8 pregnant ewes and 1 ram.

New Life – Simply living.

 

I am writing this on a winter’s afternoon. The day is fine but slightly cold, so we have the fire burning slowly in the hearth. The man’s sterling efforts cutting and storing firewood over the summer months means we have no shortage of this resource.

This morning I made marmalade from the fruit grown on our property.  This is the first lot of 50 jars that I want to put down this season. The man is a marmalade fiend. I chucked some whiskey in this batch for good luck.

Yesterday I planted some rosemary. This is the beginning of our herb garden.

Earlier in the week I planted a couple of rows of garlic in the newly resurrected vegetable garden. I will plant another two rows in about a month. And other vegetables too.  Although only ones we like – no point growing produce we won’t eat. The rotary hoe we bought a couple of months back is finally earning its keep!

Last weekend our youngest son and his wife came visiting and he and I cooked a roast for dinner. The potatoes were found in an overgrown garden in the corner of the home paddock. He recognised them; I thought they were weeds!* The  lamb, too, came from our property and although it took me a few days to get my head around this fact, any reservations about the meat’s provenance evaporated at the first mouthful! It was delish.  And that rosemary I planted will be the making of future lamb dishes!

Last week I made guava jelly from the remnants of fruit on our trees. The trees were fruiting when I went away and I thought they would have been well and truly finished by the time I got back. They weren’t. There is definitely a longer growing season up here.

A couple of weeks before that I whipped up a batch of feijoa chutney. Again the fruit came from our land.

Meanwhile plans are afoot for the chickens. I have a bid in for a recycled roost on Trademe and have worked out where the hens will go. I am thinking 6 might be a good number – enough eggs for us and enough to gift to visiting family and friends.

Next week we have to think about pruning the fruit trees and working out what we want to do about spraying.  As we don’t know a lot about it, I will head into the garden centre and get some tips from our favourite shop assistant there (she knows EVERYTHING about plants). It is also the time to plant more fruit trees so we will be talking to her about this too.

In the next month or so, the macadamias should be ready to harvest. Not sure what I’ll do with these; but I’ll figure it out.

Country life. Perfect.

*This is now our official potato growing spot!

** I also have a bid in on a mincer which I think will be great for mincing fruit for marmalade etc.

New Life – First death

We’ve had our first death on our piece of paradise.  Yes, sadly we’ve lost our ram.

Two days before his demise, Mr Ram had been happily socialising with his harem in the paddock. Twenty four hours later the man moved the flock into another field, and although the ram was not as fast as he normally was, all seemed OK.

On the day of his death, I found the ram lying in the paddock. His girlfriends were keeping their distance. After getting the man’s opinion about whether a sleep-in was normal for a sheep on a statutory holiday, we rang Karl, our tenant farmer. Coincidentally, Karl happened to be driving past our place at that exact moment, so he turned his ATV hard left up our driveway and was tending the sick animal within milli-seconds of our SOS call.

His initial assessment was that the ram might have caught pneumonia, but as our tenant farmer’s expertise lies with dairy cows rather than sheep, he said he was going to get a second opinion from someone who knew more than he did. Fair enough.

He then hopped back onto his John Deere and left.

An hour or so later he was back with a drench pack and possibly a pocketful of drugs ready to do the para-medic thing. Sadly, it was too late, the poor ram had taken his last breathe about 30 minutes before.  To this day, we don’t know why. It could have been something he ate, old age, or even a nasty worm-thing that is picked up when grazing and kills quickly.  Or it could have been something else entirely. The chances are we probably will never know.

As a precaution, however, the other sheep were drenched.* I am pleased to say they are alive and healthy. P1010227.JPG

Country life: it’s not always nice or fair, but it’s always fair dinkum real.

*Our small cattle race is proving a total asset.

 

 

 

 

New Life – Week 6 – Life and death

It is 8 o’clock in the evening and I am writing this blog. In the background I can hear a quad bike,  the neighbouring farmer shouting, his working dogs barking and cows occasionally mooing as they are moved from one paddock to another. Life in the country – it’s beaut.

This blog is another farm story: a story with a happy ending for everything, except, maybe, a few possums. Last post I mentioned that the man and I had a ram on our property to service the ewes. I was very excited about this because this would mean there would be lambs frolicking – OK, initially staggering in a drunken fashion – across our land by late August, and let’s face it, newborn lambs are up there on the cuteness scale.

Except our ram had a sore leg and had no interest in fathering anything. Now Karl, our tame farm manager, had pinned his hopes on the ram recovering with drugs – this is, of course, the North, but let me reassure you, we are talking legal prescription drugs here.

Unfortunately, the drugs did not do their job and by Tuesday evening, we noticed that the ram could not even weight bear on that leg. We gave Karl a bell, and the news wasn’t good. He’d checked the animal that day, and not only was the ram going to be relieved of impregnation responsibilities, he was destined to be dog tucker. Sad, right?

Today  Jim,  farmer and ram owner, turned up with the replacement, and to pick up the injured animal. He stayed for a while and yarned about what we were doing with the land. All of us studiously avoided the subject of what he intended to do with the lame ram. Finally, Jim swung into action and did what we thought was a very tricky ram swap out using our cattle race, the stock trailer and his dog.

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One of Jim’s working dogs

 

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Jim in action sorting the ram.

I couldn’t look the injured ram in the eye. Dog tucker!

This segues nicely into the topic of possums. We have heard one. Once. Now we know that because kiwis are released near us, predator numbers are kept low. However, one possum is still one possum too many. And let’s face facts, it may well have moved its extended family in. And a friend or two. The man and I talked to Jim about dealing to them.  He suggested a trap.   I suggested shooting. That’s OK too,  apparently. If we do get a possum, we can sell it to a local possum buyer. They process possums for dog tucker. Get the irony?

After Jim left, I raised the sad fate of the ram with the man. The man told me there had been a change of plan. The problem is footrot. Jim is sure he can sort it. The ram will live.

Possums though? Yeah, nah. They will become dog tucker.

 

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