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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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country living

New Life – Week 4 – Water rights

Last night it rained. This morning it rained. 6 days ago a drought was declared up here, so these showers will be welcomed by the farmers, and also by those folk on tank water who are running short.

The man and I are on tank water too, so logically we should have been low on water too, except we weren’t. The water level in our two connected tanks (we have a third, unconnected tank too) has remained consistently at just over 3/4 full since we arrived a month ago.  And therein lies the mystery – with no rain topping them up, how come the level hasn’t gone down?

Now we are not new to this tank water lark, having lived with it for most of the last fifteen years. But we confess, we are flummoxed.

We do know that the tanks are fed by rain from the shed roof, but from what we can see, the house roof is not supplying.

We also know that in a former life, the property was part of a farm, and in another life, calla lilies were grown here commercially. Each of these operations would have required a serious water supply way beyond what a roof or two can provide: the black alkathene pipes which zigzag across our paddocks in a haphazard way from the taps nailed onto fence posts to the troughs, or to form the  regimented lines of a very sophisticated irrigation system are testament to this.*

So where did this water come from? And is it still supplying us?

On Sunday, Kevin, the next door neighbour, popped in to introduce himself. Over a beer, we mentioned our magic never-ending water supply and Kev said it was sourced from our pond; except we think he is wrong. Actually, we hope he is wrong. You see after he left we visited the pond and there are no pipes, pumps or other paraphernalia down at the pond to make this possible. Also the pond was full-on disgusting and if we’ve been drinking that water, the man and I are convinced we would be dead, or soon to be dead.**

Which makes the man and I think that our water supply is something to do with a strange small round concrete bunker thing which sits besides the tanks. It is always full of clear water, although it is not connected to the roof. We think that it might be something to do with a spring or a bore. Both of which would explain our omni-present water supply.

Fortunately for us, the original builder of our house lives about 500 metres away; one day we’ll pop in and ask him.

*sadly, pipes and irrigation have been cut and left in quite a random fashion, rather than kept in good nick or removed. This makes it a bit like solving a jigsaw puzzle as we try and work out which troughs and irrigation pipes are still connected to water supplies.

** our tenant farmer is going to clean out the stagnant pond.

New Life – Week 3 -On friendly terms

One of the biggest fears I had about moving was whether the man and I would be welcomed into the neighbourhood and make friends. Of course, we’ve all heard stories about areas where it took decades to be considered a bona fide member of the community.

The land around us is mainly farms –  big farms of several hundred acres. From what we can glean in the short time we have been here, these farms have been in the same families for at least a couple of generations, maybe more.

This means that a lot of our neighbours have lived here all of their lives and have formed tight friendships, so we did wonder whether they would have space in their busy lives to be friends with us, or would we have to cast further afield?  Maybe join the local tiddlywinks club or something?

We needn’t have worried. Making friends here is not going to be a problem. Everyone to date has been up for a chat, helpful and interested in us and us in them. Vague coffee invitations have been extended by both them and us. And they will happen when time permits (country life is busy!) Yes, all the ingredients necessary to form friendships are there.

And so today, Mark, one of the guys whom we met last Sunday when he picked up the hay he’d purchased from our tenant farmer  – so that is how  it is economically viable for our tenant farmer to do all that work on our land gratis!!* –  popped in.

We’ve been invited to a barbeque at his place this Sunday.  How cool is that?

Now I’ve got to work out what to make to take. Mark is head of the food technology unit at the local polytech, but I won’t be stressing – turning out a light sponge is not a pre-requisite of becoming a good friend, is it?

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The tractor towing the hay making attachment

*Our tenant farmer made 98 bales of hay from our land. The going rate for a bale  is $7 – $10, so for about 5 hours work, $700 – $980 of hay was made. However, the very large tractor and 4 flash attachments used in the process would have cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars, maybe more… so needless to say, we’ll continue with the deal we have!

New life – Week 2

Twice now I’ve walked to the letter box only to have a swamp harrier hawk take flight from about ten feet away from me. And yes, it’s been most disconcerting each time it has happened, although I’ve seen the bird in the sky around the house numerous times, so logically I should have figured out that we had a hawk residing at our place too!

I didn’t know a lot about them, so I had a quick look on the internet and apparently they build their nest in overgrown grass among other things, so that figures as the area beside the drive is exactly that.

They also are a farmer’s sort of friend preying on mice etc and clearing up road kill. The ‘sort of’ bit is that they can be a bit indiscriminate with their killing and have been known to have a go at newborn lambs and chooks!  From what I can gather, harriers that get involved in this malarkey are fair game and the normal protection afforded them can be waivered, so our bird better behave itself when the sheep and chooks arrive!

Which segues nicely into the next thing that has happened – the man’s rather dodgy sign has worked! We have got someone to graze sheep on our land. So here is the low down on it: our tenant farmer is a young farm manager, Karl, who looks after two farms on our road and the main road (1000 acres in total – one owner). The deal is that he looks after the land and fences and grazes his sheep for free. If we want to take it over, we can buy the sheep from him.

Now our 5 paddocks have been let go, so our keen young farm manager has been here the last two nights with a huge tractor cutting the fields (two different flash blades) in preparation for making hay.

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Karl doing the first mow of the paddock closest to the road.

Once the hay is made, he will clean out the pond with a digger and fix up a water supply to one trough (the rest of the troughs are fine) and then the sheep arrive. We think this will be in the next week.

Meanwhile the man and I are slowly working in the garden. There is an overgrown vegetable patch which we will reinstate and expand come next spring. We are so committed to this that we have signed up to buy a pre-loved rotary hoe with a myriad of amazing ‘must have’ attachments from the fellow we bought our ride on from. I have got a funny feeling that we are going to be suckers for a lot of machinery!

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The drive looking towards the barn. On the left of the drive is the overgrown vegetable patch which borders the orchard.  The harrier hawk lives on the left (not in picture) further towards the road.

Two weeks in and life is amazing! We have made sterling progress with the house, shed and now the land is well on the way to getting sorted. I am getting prepared to start on the sequel to book 1, and the man is busy designing a small boat.

The same can’t be said for landing the perfect jobette.. that still remains a work in progress, although I’m not losing any sleep over it. To be honest, I am not sure how I am going to fit it in!

New life – Week 1.

Did you notice the change in the title format? Yep, I’ve gone from two words to four in celebration of our new life – this girl knows how to party, right?

So how has the first week gone? The answer is simply stupendous.

Here is a round up:

The move went well – the only two things lost were my spectacles and the tv remote. The specs were found on day 3 safely tucked in with the socks; the remote remains missing in action.

On day 2 the man and I were visited by neighbours from down the road. It was quite early in the morning, and luckily we were up and dressed (note to self: make sure I am fully and respectably clothed when the first rooster crows so as not to frighten visiting neighbours). John and Marie were lovely and joined us for a cup of coffee. We then exacted the price of the drink by interrogating them about the vagaries of this farming lark (don’t be picky – 3 acres to us is a farm!) and they were ever so patient and full of wonderful advice. We haven’t seen them since.*

Sunday saw us heading off to the Parua Bay market. This is a bijou market 5 mins drive from home. Well patronised, it was a chance to wander around the stalls and talk to the locals.  Our purchases included some amazing dry cured bacon and a Jerusalem artichoke plant. We could have spent squillions more on some artisan bread, sausages and vegetables. Next time, we’ll take more cash.

During the week we have done a fair bit of exploring: Pataua South, Pataua North, McGregor’s Bay, McLeod’s Bay and the beaches to the end of the Whangarei Heads. And yes, we have done more than our fair share of oohing and aahing at the beauty of the area. It is breathtaking scenery with soaring volcanic peaks, white sands and clear blue water.

Back at the ranch, we have started knocking the place into shape – there is about 3/4 acre of gardens around the house that just need a bit of TLC. I am attacking it logically garden by garden. I am well through the tidy up of the first one which has involved some trimming  and removing of unwanted plants. In spring I’ll put some replacement plants in. This garden actually contains a cross. As there is no name on it, I am unsure as to whether it marks a dearly departed pet or someone’s ashes. Regardless, I can categorically state that there has been no deep digging done in that area. Some things are best left alone.

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Looking towards orchard and farmland which surrounds us. The garden with the cross is to the left of the photo.

The man has spent an inordinate amount of time down in the vicinity of his shed. Needless to say, he has sorted out his work space, but he’s also renovated what is going to be the tractor shed and hand mowed the knee-high grass in the small paddock in front of it.

Which brings me to the knee-high grass in the paddocks. The man and I need to tame this. We did consider getting the local guy with his tractor mower to do the first cut, but after talking to Marie and John and the rural post lady who is another local gem, getting one of the local farmer’s in with their stock seems to be the way to go so this is our intention. A couple of phone calls has not produced any likely candidates to date (although everyone was super helpful) so we have taken a more global approach:

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Credit where credit’s due: Thank you to Bayley Real Estate for providing the board which the man converted to this spectacular sign!

And while we are on the topic of taming unruly lawns – we have sourced a ride on at a garage sale today. We went specifically to see it and thought it had been sold as we couldn’t see it . The farmer started chatting to us and blow me down, he hadn’t sold it as he still needed it for the next couple of weeks. To cut a long story short, we have bought it on a gentleman’s handshake. No deposit required. We’ll pick it up when he’s ready to hand it over.

Week One: We are happy as pigs in muck and are pinching ourselves at how lucky we are.

*We have been invited down to John and Marie’s for a drink when it suits us.

Packing up

In just a smidgen short of a calendar month we will be leaving Auckland and moving up north.

The man and I can’t wait. It feels like it has been a long time coming, but in the scheme of things it probably isn’t at all. It’s just that we are ready to go.

Meanwhile our days  are spent sorting through our worldly belongings, dividing them into the three piles of keep, chuck, and gift. It is at this stage that we give thanks that we are not hoarding folk!

Our conversations are full of  questions.  A tractor, a  ride-on or gator?  Or maybe all three? Sheep or alpaca? And if sheep, are they destined for a long life or the freezer? And can I cope with the latter thought? How many hens? What more do we need in the orchard? And how big should the vege patch be?

Our reading is now NZ Lifestyle Block. Our internet browsing is TradeMe. The farm implement bit.

And the Seek website. Because I am still applying for jobs. Sort of.

You see, I have other priorities. I want to paint the house interior and get stuck into the garden. Yes, I may be way too busy for that paid work lark for a while.

I’m not going to fret and worry though, there is enough in the kitty for the foreseeable. And besides, I have a feeling that the elusive job will turn up exactly when I need it!

 

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